I feel like a billionaire when I get dragged along to malls – there is nothing I need or want there (although, if there were some decent hobby shops, the latter might change). I sometimes see something I like, and may even purchase it, but, usually, I think of all the things I already have, an do not use. Living in Indonesia also makes me realise how little, in the way of material goods, some people need to get by.
The important things in life are not things, but people. It makes me sad when I read (every year) that Christmas is a time of stress and unhappiness for many people, because of the perceived demands of their families. How can that be? Why would anyone care if there was no Christmas pudding, as long as your family could actually turn up? How could anyone complain about a gift when almost everyone buys something that they can afford and feel that their loved one would like? Crazy stuff.
Any time to get together with those you love or a friendly with is a time to cherish, and gifts should be unnecessary – as the greeting card says, your presence is present enough. In my case, I am very fortunate to have family with whom I can have good conversations and we can also have full and frank discussions without hurting each other’s feelings (very much). In my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, family members could be (and were) “cut off” as a result of disagreements.
Going back to Oz twice a year also makes me feel like the frog that is thrown into the boiling water – it seems easier to notice the changes than it is for the “frogs” who are in the water as it heats up. For example, the care for each other that characterises Australians seems to be gradually eroding. A simple example is walking on the left side of a footpath or escalator. It just doesn’t happen in central Sydney – maybe there are too many tourists? The telling example is the way asylum seekers are treated. We’ve never been noted for our institutional kindness to foreigners, but the concept of a “fair go” has disappeared where these poor souls are concerned.
However, compared to most other places around the world, in Australia, the good still outweighs the other. It is clean, ordered, and most things work. The bad guys usually don’t get away with it, and there are enough people who still care about things to make a bit of a difference. In a crisis, such as floods and bush fires, there are always plenty of everyday heroes stepping up to help.
One thing we still have not come to grips with in Australia is our place in the world. Living and travelling through Asia helps one realise that people are pretty much the same everywhere, and, most of the time, it is opportunity, or lack of it, that influences who we are and what we do. It is undeniable that I am very lucky, by virtue of country of birth and family – the latter not because of the things I was given (because we had little) but because of what I learned (and keep learning) from them. Christmas, especially, reminds me of this, but most days are Thanksgiving.
A Crown Imperiled: Book Two of the Chaoswar Saga
By Raymond E. Feist