Published in the Courier Mail 13 December 2007
VOLUNTEERING recently, to bring some Christmas goodwill to a busy and often stressful time of year, some friends and I were giving out chocolates and smiles.
We approached a gentleman who was sitting waiting for his wife to finish shopping. He looked a little weary and it seemed he would appreciate a small chocolate and a friendly smile.
A delightful chat ensued, and we explained we were volunteering because we cared for our community and wanted to add a little Christmas cheer. As he looked at the chocolate we had just given him, he remarked thoughtfully, almost as an aside: “People need more than chocolate.”
I have been thinking about this encounter, and those five words, ever since. People need more than chocolate. It’s true — we all know that. But it’s a compelling idea to consider simply for the next, unvoiced question — so what do people need? There are lots of opinions about what we do and don’t need at any given time.
Television ads and catalogues all tell us we need a new (insert latest consumer item here), and if not for us, then for that special someone in our life. Speaking of that special someone, there are a whole range of websites and phone lines happy to tell you that you need such a person and they will help you find them — for a fee of course.
Lots of people telling us what we need or don’t need. The lists are endless — lists made for us, and lists we make for ourselves. At this time of year, we make Christmas lists — to do, to buy, and to get. And then Christmas is over and we move on to our New Years list — to do, to stop doing and to give.
Yet when was the last time we stopped to think about what we do — really — need?
It’s a question worth considering.
The spirit of the season would suggest to us that perhaps we need peace on earth, and goodwill to all men. Actually, it’s a concept few would argue with. But how do we translate that to our everyday lives?
Perhaps we need to relinquish the rights we have to hold on to offences? Nothing wearies our heart more than carrying resentment, justified or otherwise. While we may feel we have every right to harbour unforgiveness towards those who have hurt us, ultimately it will burden us more than anyone else.
Perhaps we need to live other-centred, rather than self-centred lives? Living for a cause bigger than ourselves brings purpose and fulfilment far beyond we could ever find if we live with the mindset that “he who dies with the most toys wins”.
Perhaps we need to live daringly? A favourite quote by Mark Twain said: “Dance like nobody’s watching; Love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening. Live like it’s heaven on earth.” Living such a way in the little things opens up for us a far more generous life.
What do we need? If we listen carefully, our heart is probably telling us.
We often shy away from searching the depths of our own heart. Life is busy, and we spend so much time taking care of the demands of the outer self that we find we have neglected our inner self.
Christians believe the world’s greatest need is that of a saviour and that this season reminds us that “unto us, a child is given”. Whether you believe that, or not, it is a great time to honestly reflect, and to contemplate the state of our lives.
And for any chocolate fans like myself, who worry I am advocating abandoning such a delicious treat — you can relax. Needing more than chocolate doesn’t preclude having chocolate — and lots of it I say. After all, it’s Christmas!