Among the greatest joys of X’mas in our lives is the giving and receiving of gifts or something out of the goodness of the heart. The old saying is that it is better to give than to receive. But my learning experience, both as a giver and receiver of meaningful gifts to and from loved ones in the family and friends in the community for more than seven and a half decades now, proves otherwise.
Take this undeniable truth as a living example: There is as much joy in receiving as in giving when adults and children act the spirit of X'mas in our lives.
But before we go to the subject of intentions behind gift-giving, let me first document as a background this Christian thought pointing to what is true about the human spirit: When we give, it is the adult in us that luxuriates in delight and warms our inner being while we watch the children frantically tear up the ribbons and unwrap their gifts, their heart jumping out to reach the surprises they expect. When we receive our presents as adults, it is the child in us that leaps out of our heart with the same excitement and joy that we have when we watch the children open their gifts.
However, it is sad to say that Master Time takes no exception when it rounds its task of taking back what we have or what we used to be in life. For gift-bearing parents or adults, the time to give stops, because they become too old to scratch the ground for a living. Love and devotion are all what they can give to their love ones but for material gifts, it is their turn to be the object of charity, as they slowly fade away.
It is when we age in time that we, as bearer of gifts, should view gift-giving even more meaningfully. It is not what we give but our intention in giving that really counts. The joy of giving not only on X'mas day but on any day depends on the nature of this intention. The intention must be godly, not otherwise.
We should not give only to please ourselves, but also to see to it that the ones who receive what we are giving are pleased to receive it – especially when the object of our affection is in a dire need of our generosity. When we give a present to someone that we know the receiver doesn’t like it or feels offended by it, the joyful spirit of Christmas dies with it. That intention is a grave moral offense not only to our human standard of propriety and commonsense, not to speak of good manners and right conduct but also to God and humanity.
The object of President Barack Hussein Obama’s generosity is the millions of America’s socially dispossessed and economically disadvantaged in his Marxist’s way of taking the money of the rich and giving it to the poor. In a capitalist country like ours, this kind of gift-giving divides the country and wounds the heart of the nation. We know that Obama’s intention is to turn into reality his dream of recreating American society into an Islamic socialism – a veiled intention that millions of Americans like you and me whose voices were heard in total disagreement — that it may come true only over our dead bodies.
With that intention, Obama validates this upside down and out thinking of poachers in welfare that in America you do not need to work if others are already working for you. It is sad for me to say that Obama’s plan in gift-giving is no doubt ungodly because it does not only support but also promote this life of indolence and destructive dependency. He was badly punished for his covert intention to take advantage of the masses’ credulity and in the process subvert the commonweal when the object of his generosity took advantage of him, making him look uglier than the Hunchback of Notre Dame in the eyes of the American public.
Let me illustrate this one more time in another penetrable way. When a homeless who sleeps on the pavement at the corner of the road, receives a blanket on X’mas from a passing Samaritan, it is not the giving of the blanket nor the blanket itself that makes the whole process of gift-giving holy and godly.
What makes it holy and godly is the intention of the gift bearer to protect that homeless by the side of the road from the biting cold of December and to give this hobo’s freezing heart a little warmth that someone cares, while we enjoy our own warmth and comfort in our heated homes in the coldest of winter.
This significance of intention behind the act of giving, recalls to mind my UN study tour that was arranged by an ASEAN country. We were brought to the Zoo as a part of our study of the host country’s tourism industry. A group of young local tourists were feeding cutlets of ripe bananas to a group of young gorillas in their artificial habitat. The gorillas fought for what the tourists were giving them in spite of the warning sign not to feed the animals. One gorilla got severely bitten as the animals fought, and was bleeding profusely, which finally called the attention of the nearby zookeeper.
The irresponsible tourists that caused the commotion were enjoying the result of their ungodly intention to feed the gorillas – to see how the animals fight for what they gave. They didn’t give food because the animals need it – this need is well-taken care of by the Zoo. It was just a kind of "giving" on the part of the inconsiderate givers that makes the givers happy, and in this example, happy with a rather macabre intention.
Back to Obama who is like these tourists in the Zoo – feeding us cutlets of ripe bananas and enjoy our bleeding as we fight for his generosity. Do I need to say more about what’s happening around us under Obama’s watch?
The moral here is that if our gift-giving to anyone is only to make us happy as givers of gifts, we should rethink ourselves in this coming year of the Tiger as the Chinese celebrate it worldwide on February 3, 2011. It is a year full of missteps and errors … a very contentious year. We cannot be like the excited, sadistic tourists in the Zoo in this vivid example that immensely enjoyed their gruesome intention of giving. A giver who taunts and makes fun of the needy to achieve a weird kind of self-satisfaction may not only be ungodly but may also be viewed as a despicable skunk that walks the earth.
One of the important aspects of my former work in the UN revolved on need-based giving to the needy. Among the international bodies that gave aids, the Red Cross and the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ), have been visible givers in crisis without conditions in a new world that shrunk into a small village. World Bank and IMF give aids to the needy with strings attached or with hard conditions – an example of gift-giving that bends the will.
We should not give in order to impose our will on the object of our charity, by taking advantage of the vulnerability of the weak. We should not chuckle with cynicism and despise the situation of the needy as we give our aid and comfort, for the simple reason that our generosity is not a license to pick into someone else’s person nor give us the right to debate any person's unfortunate past and subject it to public apathy and ridicule.
Nor should our magnanimity lead others to misery while we think of it as something funny and laugh at it like what the tourists did or what Obama is doing to the recipients of their highly questionable compassion to help.
Rather the exercise of our benevolence is not only to make ourselves happy as we give, but also to make the intention of our good will godly, especially if we could make the object of our generosity as happy as we are if not happier than we are without any hidden strings attached.
The world’s greatest men and women are Divine Providence’s living gifts to humanity. Unlike Obama’s covert intention, MotherTheresa’s charity impacted our indifferent and selfish world when she became the mother of the poor and the dispossessed in life. Mahatma Gandhi is a monument of nonviolent protest against oppression. The much publicized EDSA Revolution in the Philippines caught up with the thoughts of Ghandi when these spread all over the world from the time the British were gingerly kicked out of India.
Think of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. that visits our consciousness and nourishes to life our faltering American psyche on civil liberties every twenty-first of January. Although Ghandi is for India as King is for the United States, they are both living gifts of parallel magnitude to mankind. King is a preacher but he learned his bible for non-violence when he led the civil rights movement of the century, from the Gandhis’ exceptional non-violence philosophy after he and his family visited India in 1959 and became the guests of the Indian Prime Minister for that purpose.
But the greatest everlasting gift for mankind that we all received came on December 25 some 2010 years ago. He is a living gift very much larger than life itself. He died on the Cross that we may live, throughout the years of our mortal time, and in afterlife. That we may live in this valley of tears with love, and in peace, is what this living gift of life should mean to all of us.
This greatest gift of all time is also all what we need to survive the hostile Year of the Tiger. Behind this Memo on gift-giving lies my fervent hope that this humble editorial contribution befits our dire need not only for magnanimity and humanity but also the need to understand and be at peace with one another in Christ’s way.
© Copyright Edwin A. Sumcad. Access NWS December 15, 2010.