THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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By Rugilė Šablinskaitė
Brussels – Belgium
...It's a time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease’…
sings Cliff Richard.
I guess everyone knows this cliché Christmas song as well as many more others that talk about this special time of the year when everyone becomes just a little bit better, a little bit more understanding, more giving, less angry. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget about the so called Christmas miracle. So many ads and campaigns shouting: ‘Help someone have their Christmas miracle’.
So I looked for some food for thoughts for the upcoming 2016. I wonder if Christmas as a tradition appeared so that people became a little bit better for some time as well as more giving. It has all become commercialized. We start celebrating Christmas in the beginning of November and towards the end of December we ‘become better’. It fascinates me how different celebrations of the year have become products of consumer society. For example, on All Saints’ Day we support supermarkets buying crazy amounts of candles and running to the graveyards to enlighten the memories of our beloved ones – we have this special day as if we never had time to visit the places of rest of the ones who left us. For now. We have this special day on 14 February, when we suddenly rush to buy heart-shaped pillows, candies and other stuff to tell the ones we care about how much we love them. As we would forget to do that in daily lives and take Love for granted. Love could and should be confessed every day – as it is our first and last day of Life, presence is all that we have in our hands. On New Year Eve we make resolutions that… I wish I could say fail to accomplish because that would indicate trying. Usually, we simply forget about these resolutions within a couple weeks of time.
So my question is simple – why don’t we try harder to be better every day? Why cannot we create Christmas miracles all year long? Small steps can lead far away... And if everyone put a small effort on a daily basis, so much could be achieved. More smiles drawn on faces, more hopes and confidence in eyes, more joy. And peace. I made an experiment that I would like to share with you.
I have always been quite skeptical about these Christmas donations where you just transfer the money to someone’s bank account or even better, write an SMS to a 4 digit number to some TV show where they collect money for different purposes like buying medicine for children with cancer. Please, don’t get me wrong here – I strongly support these ideas but... I think it is the easiest way. Why not to donate this money but also take a step – drive to the hospital where these kids are imprisoned and show some real affection to them in person? Yes... It does take an extra effort while sending an SMS takes what? 30 seconds of your lifetime? And true, it makes you feel better. But I think way more could be done here. You cannot transmit love and care through this SMS or bank account. And I think Love is the biggest gift you can share with someone. And it actually must be shared.
Having all these thoughts in my mind, I was wandering through the streets of Brussels. Within crammed paths of crazy Christmas-shoppers (as if they could buy Christmas in all these glamorous shops and pack it into decorated boxes..), my eye was caught by the amount of beggars in hidden corners, with their eyes laid down to the ground. Watching it I realized that not many people pay attention to them. Then I started thinking how many of us sometimes tell – oh, he/she has 2 hands and 2 legs, the person should go and get a job; or he/she will probably spend the money on alcohol or drugs... So my experiment was simple. I decided to break prejudices and just ASK them what happened that they ended up where they are. To show them affection (obviously, this is one thing they don’t suffer from getting too much...), I baked some apple pies and packed the pieces separately. Also, dog food and snacks of course – for their loyal friends keeping them company during cloudy and grey days in the streets. Took my backpack and went out with no clear idea of how or where.
In the beginning the feelings were mixed. How will people react? I perfectly was aware of the fact that sweets is not something they need most but my idea was to show individual and personal attention to a human being. And the results... Well, it provoked this writing for starters. But also made me think a lot about some important things that are sometimes left out.
There was this old woman who unfortunately spoke no English. She sat there silently with a little dog laying on her knees. When I gave the treaties for her friend and a pie – that shy but so grateful and deep look in her eyes… She rested her hand heavily on mine and squeezed it. And held it for a lasting moment looking into my eyes. It said more than thousands of words in any language ever would. It reached my heart directly. Then, there was a disabled guy playing some music by the church and even though he didn’t speak English either, he just kept on talking and talking to me in French even after I told him I speak none of it and so all I could do was smile and nod. I could imagine what he was saying. He was excited. And the pie was still warm, the smell of apples mixing in his hands with the city air. There were others who expressed their gratitude in different ways. But here I would like to tell about the guy that was sitting there with 4 puppies. That surprised me most. I timidly came to him and kneeled by his side. To my astonishment, his English was perfect. So I asked him, what the story was behind. And he destroyed all the prejudices possible. First, I was surprised by his language as I could see that he was educated. Secondly, he was French. And he was a traveler. And not a jobless one at all. He works during day time. So you may ask, why this begging part? For his dream. He said he wants to travel and this is his passion. But he doesn’t get enough from working for living and traveling. It is our limited understanding of what possible is. He was just literally doing everything for his dream. Even if to get some extra money meant to ask help from others in the streets. I remember perfectly working in bars when holding a Master’s degree diploma in my pocket – and it is stepping out of your comfort zone as people around judge (and I was working and not asking for help though not what I wanted at all – but in some periods of life you just do what you have to). And people not always judge by spoken words. Looks and behavior sometimes transmits it all. And he overcame his fear of being judged. I asked about the dogs. More surprises to come. When he came to Brussels some months ago, he found a dying pregnant dog. And only 4 puppies survived, so he sheltered them. For 2 of them he found owners, the other 2 he decided to keep and travel with them further together. While sitting with him there and chatting, I realized how it all looks from underneath... People indifferently passing by, afraid to look into our eyes or just trying to pretend they are blind to the view. Even the ones that would put money into his basket, wouldn’t look and try to rush away as quickly as possible. I thought if I ever had a dream, would I actually be ready to literally do everything about? Or I would fall under the category that doesn’t want to be judged and criticized by the society. Many people say they do not care, but at the end of the day, not many step out of the box that is perceived to be normal by the majority. I realized that it is not shameful to sit there and ask for money when you really want something. When you believe in something. So giving somebody money, sometimes you would simply contribute to this someone’s Christmas miracle which doesn’t have to be at Christmas at all. We prejudge a lot. When sometimes is enough to ask. Oh, I forget, we don’t have time for that… (And to be honest, I don’t think many people are genuinely interested in the ones who are suffering as it is just easier to close ones eyes and see smiling happy (I meant ‘happy’) faces around..
So 2016 is on the doorsteps, carefully knocking into our lives... So, what I would like to wish for myself and all of you is to have time for giving, getting, forgiving and forgetting not only during these decorated and shiny weeks of the year. But... to take these small steps every day. Giving is getting. And forgetting the things that hurt us is sometimes the best way to peace and discoveries. And of course... Love. Like you have never been hurt. With your heart open. Because out of Love the most beautiful flowers of Life grow. After all, we are never as happy or unhappy as we imagine – it is our choice to be happy and even how happy we allow ourselves to feel and be. There is no need to crawl – we were given wings so everyone should learn to fly (even if sometimes it means falling down). And it is only us that drive our lives and choose roads. Maybe it is easier to set a navigation and mechanically plan your trip but I think a lot of beautiful miracles of Life would be missed… So I wish you 2016 full of meaningful discoveries, adventures that fulfill Life with plenitude, intellectual curiosity and the need to share with others who need a shoulder to rest or a leaned hand to stand up. Love and be loved. Unconditionally. Every day.
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