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Onnellisuustutkija Markku Ojanen

Article categories: News

What to give for Christmas?  

In the traditional Christmas narrative, the Magi, or Wise Men of the East, brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The carpenter’s poor family would probably also have been just as pleased to be given bread, wine, and fruit. The gift brought by the Magi of the East today would most likely be peace of mind and the ability to not worry about tomorrow. Although these are good principles, for many people today, the concepts can simply feel too big to appreciate. 

Worries do not disappear just because Christmas is coming. It seems as though fear, sorrow, anxiety as well as aches and pains simply turn up uninvited whenever they decide to appear. Among other concerns today, corona has certainly caused a lot of fear and worry. Many people have become ill, some very seriously so. We must now ask ourselves how we will spend this Christmas. The festive season simply loses a lot of its appeal when we are not surrounded by the people closest to us.

So, what else could be placed in the gift basket? Many would like there to be something more concrete than simply peace of mind. But let us not give up on the Magi of the East just yet! Following their example, we can still delight each other with gifts at other times of the year than at Christmas. However, the gifts can be much, much smaller, like chocolate, a book, or something homemade. At Christmas, I like to buy small gifts for my loved ones and wrap them myself. It is one of the nicest things about Christmas. I was once amazed when I was directed to the wrapping section at a large store. I said I could take the Christmas paper, but I would wrap the present myself. I heard the sales assistant say to another; “Here is a gentleman who actually wants to wrap the presents himself!”

The Magi also brought something else to that humble couple; something that is at least as valuable as gold and myrrh. They showed their respect and appreciation towards both Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus. And that is something we all yearn for. I remember an English class I attended at school. The teacher said to me with a smile: “Yes Markku, you know a lot.” It was such a rare and precious thing to hear at school that I still remember it 60 years later. We should put praise and appreciation into the gift basket. This is never too much to give in a country where giving praise does not come naturally. Though such a gift is equally suitable for all ages, for children and youngsters it is even more precious than gold. There is now already quite a lot in the basket, but there’s still room for more, because there are other gifts that do not take up so much space. They are so soft that there is room for many of them. These are gifts that will bring joy and goodwill to the giver as well the receiver.

The things that bring joy must be noted. Oh, how easily we go blind to all the good we get from each other! We take for granted that we have loved ones who care and support us. It is only when a loss or hardship arrives, such as corona, and it becomes difficult to earn a living and maintain close relationships, that we start to realise just how good things used to be – and they are still good when we remember how difficult life is in many other countries.
Life is like being on a journey with a lot of other travellers. And there is a lot of joy to be found in fellow travellers when we simply remember to treat them kindly and constructively. How much more comfortable it is on a long journey when there is good company to be had! But remember too, that sometimes the baggage other people carry with them is very heavy indeed. And then they may need us to help them carry their load.

Everyone can easily admit that it is the small things that bring joy. There are gifts, good foods, friendships, music, candles, a chance to rest and unwind, and so on. For many, happy things are related to children, grandchildren, and loved ones. Still, especially at Christmas, we remember that not everyone has it this good. And that is when we come to perhaps the most important thing to remember: sharing. Could you be happy at Christmas if everyone around you was unhappy? Hardly, because it is being together that makes us happy. In recent years, psychologists have studied the effects of giving, and strangely enough, a gift given to someone else often produces more joy than receiving a similar gift for oneself. We already knew this, of course, but it is great that the research proves it too.

What can we share? There is a lot to share. We may make donations to Save the Children, for example, or any other charity. We can give time to those who miss our company. Experiencing loneliness is the most serious disruptor of happiness. The ability to be close to others has suffered greatly in many people’s lives because of corona. Still, you can get in touch with loved ones if you remember to follow the safety recommendations. Fortunately, telephones and other communication-enabling devices work well.

The most wonderful thing is that things can increase when they are shared. So, it is not always so, that when I give something, there will be less of it for me. Kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, and most especially love, increase when shared. When there is so much talk about limited resources, there are still resources here that never decrease; and the more they are used, the more they increase. Love is a true never-ending natural resource.

– We can harness the energy of the winds, the seas and the sun. But the day man learns to harness the energy of love, that will be as important as the discovery of fire, Paulo Coelho.

Love does not always know quantity, but glows above all quantity. Love knows no burden and does not count its failings; it wants to do more than it can handle, not to choose the impossible, but to keep everything possible and permissible. That is why it is capable of everything and accomplishes so much, where the unloving discourages and becomes tired, Tuomas Kempiläinen.

Markku Ojanen

Published: 27.11.2020