In making our Christmas gift list, many of us suddenly remember all the people we ignored (those whose eyes we never met; whose voices we never heard; and whose names we didn’t bother to ask) all through the year. Swiftly, we (I am actually talking to myself here) add them to our list.
This list—perhaps due to guilt or an itch to give because it’s the season of giving—includes the invisible people around the neighborhood and in the places we go to or pass through regularly.
On Christmas, we acknowledge their existence and at last, they become visible.
And who are they? Those who make our lives better all year through: the street cleaners, the garbage men, the traffic policemen, the janitors in our offices, the messengers, and security guards, to name a few. Listing them is like atoning a one-year-old sin of omission.
I read somewhere about a homeless guy who really thought he was invisible. He roamed the streets night and day. But nobody, not one, ever glanced his way or exchanged a word with him. One day, however, a little boy gave him a Christian pamphlet.
Stunned, the man asked, “This kid can see me?! How is that possible? I am invisible!”
This may not be a true story, but it illustrates how unnoticed people feel about themselves.
Sometime ago, as I was labelling my Christmas gifts for the invisible people who figured in my places of work, I couldn’t write one name. Not only did I feel mortified, I felt like I dishonored them. After I had researched and finally written down all their names, I personally handed each one my gift, calling him/her by name for the first time.
“Merry Christmas, Burnok/Mayet/Erning, etc.” The smiles they gave me in return was priceless grace, reducing the price tag of the gifts I had wrapped for them to negative zero.
A bit late for me to learn a lesson, but since then I have tried to know better the people I deal with regularly by first, knowing their names, and second, making a connection. A simple “Hi, Maria!" or, “How are you doing, Mario?” can lift her/his spirits.
Such is one of the countless life lessons I have learned from Christmas to Christmas.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)