Honoring Christmas

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“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

old barn on popp in snow

The impact of Covid-19 on the global poverty rate has been dramatic.

In 2017, 9.2% of the world population, or 689 million people, lived in what is termed “extreme poverty,” meaning they subsisted on the equivalent of $1.90 or less every day. This was a reduction in the rates followed over the past 25 years. However, as recently as October 7, 2020, the World Bank estimated that the Covid-19 pandemic would push an additional 88-115 million people into extreme poverty. Climate change compounds this. By 2030, its effects could force another 100 million people into poverty.

There are other income groups the World Bank designates as living in poverty: 24.1 percent of the world lived on less than $3.20 a day and 43.6 percent on less than $5.50 a day in 2017.

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This week, the Washington Post reported that almost 8 million Americans fell into poverty over the past five months. The poverty rate jumped to 11.7% in November – up 2.4 percentage points since June. The federal poverty line is $26,200 for a family of four.

These statistics became more visually real for me as I browsed the captivating images captured by Bert Teunissen, a Dutch photographer who, since the mid-1990’s, has photographed Europeans in the type of home he knew as a child. The rooms shown are simply furnished and the subjects sit in natural light, as their homes were built before WWII, when both electricity and urbanization began to change world communities dramatically. Most of these people would likely not have qualified as living in what the World Bank identifies as “extreme poverty,” but they certainly lived in tiny spaces with few of the amenities and luxuries many of us enjoy. Spending time with them through these profoundly intimate photographs offered a deep meditation on want, need, gratitude, reciprocity, consumerism, and obligation.

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I invite your reconsideration that almost half of the Earth’s population lives on the equivalent of $5.50 a day or less. This speaks to who we are as a species as surely as do the ways we’ve managed the pandemic and our inability to mitigate climate change by lessening our greed and disregard for the Earth and her needs.

We are unbalanced.

During the season when so many of us celebrate once again the inbreaking of the Sacred into our lives and spirits, may I suggest there is very little authenticity to the celebration when we so easily tolerate a world where almost half of us live with so little, and usually in the locations most threatened by climate change that we wealthier humans have caused?

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We can do better, and must.

The verb “donate” has its source in the word for gift. I encourage us all to re-think the meaning of a Christmas or holiday gift and donate this year, like never before and all through the years to come…Donate energy, money, time, clothes, food, shelter, and love.

Donate locally and globally. We can look around our own homes and see if there are ways to simplify, recycle, pare down. We can plant gardens. We can bring food to pantries and shelters, and unnecessary clothes to thrift stores. We can work to downsize thoroughly, justly, and cleanly.

Here is a highly efficient and effective charity that allows you to sponsor a child, student, or elder with a monthly donation. We’ve been blessed by the connections it’s afforded us.

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I wish all of my visitors and readers a most blessed holiday and a far, far, healthier and brighter new year. But don’t bid farewell to 2020 too hastily. She has come with so very many important lessons we need to learn about the ways we treat ourselves and others, offer our gifts to the world, behave as community, and care for the Earth. Let us not shut out the lessons she has taught. And let us honor Christmas in our hearts…and our actions.

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I am grateful for every one of you: grateful for your light and gifts in the world, and grateful for your goodness. Be well and safe, and gentle peace.

This is an old poem of mine that I have shared before and offer again, with great love–recycled, as it were–as my humble gift to you.

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Welcoming the Stranger

See the weary travelers,
lonely in the night.
In a town of strangers,
searching for a light,
praying for a kindness,
just an open door—
in a world of strangers,
there’s no welcome for the poor.

In a cave that evening,
meant to shelter sheep,
Love was born to heal us,
little lamb asleep.
In a world of darkness,
tossed and blown and wild,
in a world of strangers,
came the poor to greet the child.

No one is a stranger;
nothing’s here by chance.
All of life is welcome
in the holy dance.

See the joyful family,
sheltered from the storm.
In a world of strangers,
Love will keep them warm.
Whirling stars are singing,
angels greet this birth:
wrapped in rags and mystery,
lies the richest child on earth.

While the world lay sleeping,
everything had changed:
power, wealth, possession,
all was rearranged.
Have we learned the lesson?
Have we even heard?
How we treat the stranger
is our answer to the Word.

No one is a stranger;
nothing’s here by chance.
All of life is welcome
in the holy dance.

Wealth is found in giving,
opening the door,
offering forgiveness,
sheltering the poor,
cradling creation,
saying yes to love,
welcoming the stranger,
while the angels sing above.

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

10 thoughts on “Honoring Christmas

  1. Oh that poem, wow, I loved it, how it moved me!
    Such a beautiful, relevant post! Sobering too, yes so many have absolutely nothing through no fault of their own, despite working day and night for coppers. Far more people will die from starvation than covid, and climate change will make it worse.
    Daughter and I sponsor a girl with Plan International, it’s so wonderful sending and receiving news and knowing she is safe from child marriage and receiving an education.
    I have just posted a very frivolous post, but I live by the three R,s, repair, reuse, recycle. I loved the gorgeous snowy pics, and love you! Thanks for posting this. Love and huge hugs to you all.xxxxx

  2. Oh, thank you, Snowbird, my dear. I’m very touched by your words about the poem and so glad to hear you and your daughter have worked with Plan International and found it wonderful. I can’t say enough good about Unbound.org, either. How lovely to know people are sacrificing and making such organizations viable for us to plug in and make a difference!

    I ALWAYS love your posts; they make a difference, too. Thank you!

    Love and hugs to you as well, always.

    xoxo,
    Kitty

  3. I love the description of life as a holy dance. I have used the saying “Just keep Dancin’ “ as a motivation for me to remember to put one foot in front of the other…to keep going forward. I now see that as a way of honoring the universe.

  4. That’s a lovely way to put it, Sandi; thank you for that shot of inspiration! Just what I needed today. I appreciate your kindness in sharing. Please be well and safe, and gentle peace, Sandi.

  5. “. . . in a world of strangers, came the poor to greet the child.” The poem says everything, dear Kitty, it brought tears to my eyes. Your photos are hauntingly beautiful, your message poignant. I’ve been focused on supporting our local food bank organization – people line up for miles in various locations, something we’ve never seen here before. And so many musicians and performers are struggling to survive too. Bill and I have so much to be thankful for. I wish you and your family a Christmas full of love and a new year full of hope and wellness. And it is wonderful to see your pup photos – they bring a smile to my face.

  6. Good Morning, Lynn! I just fed my spirit at your amazing blog: what a treat to catch up with several days of e-mail and see the invitation to also catch up with your amazing gifts! So glad you’ve had a grand long time of rest and gestation, and I cannot wait to hear the new CD!

    Thank you for your kind and sobering comments. Yes, we’re making weekly treks to drop off canned goods at our local pantry, and know it’s not nearly enough to meet the current needs. Artists suffer, yes (when we need them most), and the poor, the owners of small businesses, the employees being terminated…desperate times and times of deep invitation to our hearts, and pocketbooks, and–as you wisely recognize–our gratitude. We can do this; we must; and all my prayers are that we will, and be enriched by all the lessons this time offers.

    Deep joy and peace to you and Bill, and–always–Angel.

  7. Thank you, Kitty, for this beautiful piece and lovely poem. And I love each and every photo. It often takes so much less than we think to give a little more. It’s been a quiet Christmas in so many ways, and I think, in so many of us just trying to muddle through, we can forget how many are struggling so much more than we. Thank you for the reminder. I think peace and kindness are more meaningful gifts, however we can manage it, than ever before, now and in the year to come.

    1. Thank you, Jeanne. Kindness is my wisdom word for the new year; I try to travel with a different word every year, a daily touchstone and the magnifying glass I use to scrutinize my choices…I agree that its value is more precious than ever. And I learn so much more about it from people like you.

      The older I grow, the more I realize what great parts of ourselves we keep hidden and how important it is to meet the bits we share with one another in kindness, which I think flows like medicine to those secrets, memories, griefs, and wounds that are below the surface…

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