The day after Christmas and the urgent gift we must offer our world

My books from my childhood and adolescence now boast the smell I love so much — the toasty, musty scent of old books. On Christmas day, standing in the bedroom I grew up in, I scanned my shelf looking for a good book to re-read as a Christmas treat. I pulled out Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which I hadn’t opened in over ten years.

Even as a young reader, I already knew this book was one I would have to revisit as an adult. When the movie came out not too long ago, I purposefully missed it, remembering the promise I had made when my copy of the book still smelled clean and bookstore-fresh.

So on this Christmas Day, to satisfy the hope of my younger self, I opened up the pages, already browning and spotted with a bit of age. This hope was that as I grew up and grew older, I would continue to open my heart to precious stories like these; that I would revisit their chapters and let their wisdom reveal something new with each reading.

The incredible thing is that the moment I finished the book this time, soon after waking this morning, I ached to read it over. It is a perfectly-timed read, as I continue to wrestle with the polarizing impressions of the daily news — safety and violence, injustice and the eager Christmas spirit.

In The Giver, Lois Lowry brings us to a version of our world that lives in Sameness. It is a safer, more organized world where people feel no pain, where everyone has their duty and place in society at any given time. Those that do not, due to weakness at birth or old age, or because of disobedience of the rules, were released from the community.

It was a secure society, where people shared their feelings, offered and accepted verbal apologies when wrong was committed, and never found themselves wanting.

While all of that made for a peaceful “life,” these people could not see colors, had never heard music, and more painfully to consider, had never known love. Could we still call this living? They had no knowledge of sunshine, of snow, of flowers or of birds. They had unknowingly traded the splendor of these simple, lovely things, for the absence of any discomfort, ache or inadequacy.

Only one member of their community held all memory and history — really he was the only one that knew of and lived with the beauty, pleasure, sorrow and pain that ever existed. That person was the Receiver of Memory. Jonas, our twelve-year old protagonist, was selected to be the new Receiver, by the former one, now known as the Giver.

And right in the pages of this book sits a beautiful memory of Christmas:

“Jonas felt the joy of it as soon as the memory began. Sometimes it took a while for him to get his bearings, to find his place. But this time he fit right in and felt the happiness that pervaded the memory.

He was in a room filled with people, and it was warm, with firelight glowing on a hearth. He could see through a window that outside it was night, and snowing. There were colored lights: red and green and yellow, twinkling from a tree which was, oddly, inside the room. On a table, lighted candles stood in a polished golden holder and cast a soft, flickering glow. He could smell things cooking, and he heard soft laughter. A golden-haired dog lay sleeping on the floor.

On the floor there were packages wrapped in brightly colored paper and tied with gleaming ribbons. As Jonas watched, a small child began to pick up the packages and pass them around the room…. While Jonas watched, the people began one by one to untie the ribbons on the packages, to unwrap the bright papers, open the boxes and reveal toys and clothing and books. There were cries of delight. They hugged one another….

Jonas opened his eyes and lay contentedly on the bed, still luxuriating in the warm and comforting memory. It had all been there, all the things he had learned to treasure.

“What did you perceive,” The Giver asked.

“Warmth,” Jonas replied, “and happiness. And — let me think. Family.”*

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On this stormy day after Christmas, I think of all those around the world who are not surrounded by the ideal Christmas or holiday. There are many among us who sit in evacuation centers, crowd in refugee camps, cower in the fear or aftermath of violence, run breathless in search for peace, shrink in hunger, or face their grief alone. Even as many of us have joyfully celebrated in the company of loved ones this Christmas, safe by a glowing fire, bathed in sweet sunlight, or in the embrace of joy, there are too many in the world that live the exact opposite of this story.

Though we raise our banners of generosity and cheer this holiday season, there is no denying the hatred, suffering, and overwhelming grief that runs in the bloodstream of humanity. It seems our love is not enough to heal the wounds, to ease the torment, or to undo the wrongs that have been committed in our generation alone. I fear our own hypocrisy.

And yet, I find myself still clinging to hope, even with the deafening noise and discouragement of reality. I cling to the true Gift of this season — the Love that heals, the Love that saves. The Hope in Whom Christmas began.

Because we are human, we will continue to carry the weight of anguish and heartache, but with it, the lightness of love and compassion. In a time when justice can feel like a sad, mocking idea to the suffering multitudes around the world, I insist that there is still a fighting army of us who can love, forgive and heal. Help me prove that this is true. These are the days when we must courageously show up in defense, in solidarity, out of love for others.

“… Jonas, the community will be left with no one to help them. They’ll be thrown into chaos. They’ll destroy themselves. I can’t go.

“Giver,” Jonas suggested, “you and I don’t need to care about the rest of them.”

The Giver looked at him with a questioning smile. Jonas hung his head. Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.”*

As I closed the pages of The Giver, I held on to these words. It is simple, but far from easy place to begin.

We start by caring. Truly caring for one another. We may not live in the Sameness of Jonas’ community, but the need for us to care is even greater today. It is so important that we reflect on how we are tangibly called to do this today and that we act on it with purpose and urgency.

May we never let our colors mute to gray, our music unravel into silence, our dancing slow down to stillness, our love disfigure into hatred, or our sense of justice crumble into indifference.

Merry Christmas!

[*Quotes in italics are from the novel, The Giver, by Lois Lowry, published in 1993, by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers in New York.]

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There’s room under the Christmas tree!

We are just one week from Christmas eve and I have one last suggestion for your Christmas gift giving! Our unique Baa-ul Christmas Baa-Baa-Baskets are here!

 

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These baskets are very special to me because they represent a number of wonderful things that are happening in our country and community, in spite of the troubling headlines the news offers us on a daily basis. It’s a simple thing – a basket of gifts, but as we’ve gathered these items from friends and partners working all over the country, this basket has filled me with pride and given me hope for what’s to come for small local enterprises.

In the preparation of these baskets, we’ve supported small rural farms, a community in the first farm village university, mothers with small homegrown enterprises, social enterprises that employ women escaping abuse in the commercial sex trade, a young microbrewery that’s changing the local industry, and programs for children at risk around the Philippines.

The baskets are filled with salted coco caramel, raw cacao, virgin coconut oil, banana chips, potato chips, craft beer, coco sugar, lipote wine, handcrafted ornaments and handmade greeting cards. Through our purchases, we have helped to bring livelihood to communities all over the country – Manila, Laguna, Bulacan, Bicol, Batangas, and Quezon. Our baskets come in two variants – the Signature Basket and the Premium Basket.

It is a joy to be able to share so many amazing Filipino flavors and ideas in one precious gift!

As we tie up this season of giving, I invite you to make room to give these baskets to your friends and family.

In our giving and celebrating this Christmas, may we most importantly turn to our Father in Heaven and acknowledge the Grand Gift He has given us – our inspiration for the season and our True Hope.

Now here’s more on what fills up these beautiful baskets:
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Signature Baa-Baa-Basket Php2499

– First Harvest’s Salted Coco Caramel
– Homemade Banana Chips
– THChips’ Homemade Potato Chips
– Precious Trading Co.’s Raw Cacao and Virgin Coconut Oil
– 2 bottles of Pedro Brewcrafters’ Elementary English Ale
– a handmade greeting card from The Paper Project Inc.
– a handcrafted tree ornament from Thread & Vine

premium

Premium Baa-Baa-Basket Php4499

-5 bottles of Pedro Brewcrafters’ Elementary, English Ale
-1 bottle of Lipote Wine from Alabat Island, Quezon
– Coco Sugar, from Alabat Island, Quezon
– Precious Trading Co.’s Raw Cacao and Virgin Coconut Oil
– First Harvest’s Salted Coco Caramel and Peanut Crunch Spread
– THChips Homemade Potato Chips
– Homemade Banana Chips
– 5 handmade greeting cards by The Paper Project Inc.
– 1 handmade ornament from Thread & Vine

a recent dream

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So, I’m a bit of a strange dreamer.
Here’s my response to our latest #CreativeNeighbor prompt: a recent dream.

she lifts her fingers to wipe the dream out of her eyes
gently, to keep herself from clawing her lids apart,
but the doors don’t open.

she’s in a small room with a calm tiger, next to a strange
man that looks like a liar, eating food that tastes like something bad happened
she lifts her fingers to wipe the dream out of her eyes.

then a flood of yellow wipes out her sight, she is flying in light,
it is light mixed with bright paint, like the moment before waking,
but the doors don’t open.

is it a nightmare when your legs feel like dead snakes, sinking
into quicksand as you crawl one elbow in front of the other, up an impossible staircase
she lifts her fingers to wipe the dream out of her eyes.

she tries a scream, a flood of weightless tears,
a prayer she shouts over and over again,
but the doors don’t open

she misses the hallways that lead her to places she knows,
aches for sounds to call her back to the surface
she lifts fingers to wipe the dream out of your eyes
but you won’t open the doors.


Join our weekly creative prompts by Art in the Neighborhood here. Or look us up on Facebook or Instagram.

Do not forget when you were little.

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Dad and me by Lake Tahoe. Brothers playing in the background. It was dad’s birthday yesterday – happy birthday, Dad!

 

Do not forget when you were little; a lifetime shorter than all the rest. 

Today we hold our egos high, stuck out like scrunched-up chins set on stone-cold jaws, taunting the world to hit us with something good. There’s a pride in us, webbed into our very bones, our childhood growth spurts dictating how much of the pride is faulty, how much of it is made of honor.

Do not forget when you were little; tiny hand reaching out for direction, for love. 

As children, we held out our hands for guidance and just knew that someone would hold it. We trusted that we would be led to something good. Doubt was still a game then; not yet the crutch,  nightmare, or dirty secret that it later morphs into.

As children, we didn’t second guess our need for someone else to be there for us. It was fully part of our flesh, this affection. We didn’t resist the arm of a loved one reaching out to hold us. For a loved one to turn away simply confused us. There was yet no shame in reaching out first.

Today, we hide in reflection and conclude that perhaps to reach out is to be needy, or worse, to reach out is to be selfish. When did love dress up as weakness? Deconstruct what strength and worth you have in this life, and you’ll find that there is no you without love, whether a trace or a flood of it.

Do not forget when you were little; because everyone says this life goes by in the blink of an eye. 

When we were young, we hurried to grow up. We held precious moments with a clumsy, absent-mindedness, interest always lost to the next distraction. Thankfully we were born with memory. It was not a switch we needed to turn on, a skill we had to learn or a trophy to deserve. If it were, we’d be scavenging for our history. Our biology keeps record of who we are, where we’ve been – in the tangles of our mind or in tracks left on skin. In adult life, we salvage what snapshots our memory can bring to mind, but at that point we can no longer choose what moments endure as milestones. What kind of story does our memory preserve for us?

Do not forget when you were little, because no matter how old we are, we are still and always not yet fully grown.

To be human is to be flawed, to be small in the universe, to be complex and never fully unmistakably understood. We are little beings in this grand world. Little beings not meant to be alone.

——–
This post is in response to our #CreativeNeighbor prompt by Art in the Neighborhood: a photo from your past. Join us as we make room for creativity and community. 
If you’re like us and need a push to get those creative wheels turning again, join our weekly art challenge! Here’s how it works:

 

Every SUNDAY, we’ll post a creative prompt.
Take the week to respond in your own medium and style. Write, paint, sing, dance, shoot.

There are no rules, but we challenge you to slow down your creative process. Think less digital and more analog.

On SATURDAY, share your work.
Post your response online along with the hashtags #creativeneighbor and#neighborhoodph. Read, watch and listen to what others have shared. Then look out for the next prompt on following Sunday!

 

#CreativeNeighbor

Another stab at making time for art and friends.

Earlier this year, I started an initiative called Art in the Neighborhood, with the vision to make creative activities an important presence in our everyday spaces. Here’s our latest project.

If you’re like us and need a push to get those creative wheels turning , join our weekly art challenge:

creativeneighbor

Here’s how it works:

Every SUNDAY, we’ll post a creative prompt.
Take the week to respond in your own medium and style. Write, paint, sing, dance, shoot.

There are no rules, but we challenge you to slow down your creative process. Think less digital and more analog.

On SATURDAY, share your work.
Post your response online along with the hashtags #creativeneighbor and#neighborhoodph. Read, watch and listen to what others have shared. Then look out for the next prompt on following Sunday!

Let’s see where we go! Share this with a friend who’d be a great #CreativeNeighbor! I’ll be posting my responses and sharing the weekly prompts here.

First prompt goes up on Sunday, October 9th! Make sure to follow Art in the Neighborhood on Facebook or Instagram to get updates.