A letter in one of the papers this week brought me up short. It complained about the cost of electricity making the writer afraid to put up Christmas lights. Contrast that to the report of an Australian family that strung up over 500,000 lights on their suburban home, to reclaim their Guiness world record.
That same evening, I went to an uptown plaza and was interested to see the area decorated with Christmas lights. Where I live also had lights up at the entrance and along the pathway. Our house has lights up; outside and around the tree which my wife collected and decorated last weekend. So, too, do most of the neighbouring houses. If I take the letter as a gauge, we are not afraid of what our electricity bills would be after Christmas, or if we were, could somehow deal with them. Only last year did we put up a Christmas tree for the first time, so our youngest child can’t really say that she’s used to seeing it up. But, she’d be in shock if we said we did not think we could decorate it with lights because of the cost. We’ve driven around some of the neighbourhoods in recent evenings and seen many houses strewn with lights–not all, but many. Again, fear has not eaten into their owners’ desire to celebrate brightly. Clearly, we are the haves.
I try always to never forget where I came from in Jamaica. We were not people who were dirt poor, but life was simple and pleasant for that. Both of my parents came from big families in two of Jamaica’s big food providers–St. Elizabeth and St. Mary. Whatever else was happening, food, especially fruit and vegetables, was always available. Even though, I remember having to wait to eat until after the ‘big people’. As my parents established themselves in Jamaica and then England, we did not have to think often about lives of not having. Now, I see in Jamaica every day, many of the not haves. The country is full of hands outstretched to get a few coins, as the man did the other day as I drove past Devon House and he looked at my little stash of coins ready for making change.
We are often reminded of the meaning of the spirit of Christmas. I really hadn’t given much thought to what it meant to have lights on a tree–partly, because I never focused much on needing to have that. But, for those who try at this time of year to see the world as a better place, it’s the sort of image that puts a large distance between some who have and the many who have not.