Our volunteers and I received the best Christmas gift this year. We received very generous financial and material contributions from donors for our annual work – The Nepal Needy Family Project – despite the lack of ‘marketing’ whatsoever. I am deeply encouraged by the good response and generosity. Our volunteers’ sincere appeal is all that we have, and I wish to say a big ‘thank you’ to all donors and volunteers.
We will be in Nepal from November 25 to December 6 to work on the project. Please keep us in your prayers – that our work be fruitful.
What really impresses us, and what we are deeply humbled by, is that many of our donors gave a generous sum out of their limited means. I know many of them are not holding high paying jobs, yet they donated a generous sum to our cause. I even received a cheque of $1000 from a donor whom I have not met and neither is he/she my present patient, friend or client. They did not give because there is a lucky draw or anything to get from us, or even any merit to gain. These acts are truly selfless giving – the true Christmas spirit.
Now, what has giving or generosity to do with wellness?
A person can only give his or her money, time and love if the person has a sense of abundance. When we are filled with a sense of abundance, we can give freely. It can be our time, love, financial assistance or education. A sense of abundance springs from the belief that ‘I am loved’, and we cannot help but to transmit that love. Love is not just a feeling of compassion but action to will the good in others – to go all the way out to help, in big and small ways.
At an interview with Teresa Hsu, Singapore famed centenarian, she was asked to list the secrets to her long and healthy life.
The answer: A peaceful mind and a loving heart, and love all – good and bad people. (The Straits Times, December 31, 1990, p.38).
Neurobiology confirmed that love is good for your health (Esch & Stefano, 2005). The elixir of life, according to Professor Marc Cohen from RMIT University in Melbourne, is love. (The Straits Times, June 4, 2005, p.46).
The love process involves oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine and serotonergic signaling. These are the healthy neurotransmitters in our nervous system. For example, a deficiency of dopamine has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and attention deficit disorder. Serotonin is our ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter and a lack of it gives rise to bad temper, aggression, anxiety, insomnia, low self-esteem and depression. (Osiecki, Meeke, & Smith, 2004, p.21)
The meaning in life, I believe, is – What can I do to love more, in the midst of suffering or joy? Can I still give when I am retrenched from my job? Can I still love my wife when she is bedridden? It is a test of our faith and inner life.
Christmas season is often associated with giving. During this season, we often exchange gifts and greetings. We used to have gifts exchange in our office. But gifts exchange is exchange of energy, and not true giving. Gifts exchange has nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas. It may lead to a mentality that in order for me to give, I need to find out what I can get. Is this the kind of value we would like to transmit to our children?
Instead of exchanging gifts, why don’t we give our time, love, financial assistance or a meaningful Christmas gift to:
– A lonely relative or friend
– The auntie who cleaned your office
– The worker who swept the corridor of your flat
– A difficult neighbor
– Your teacher
– Your parents who may be living in an elderly home
– Someone who is suffering from a terminal illness
I’d like to conclude with this simple prayer, inspired by the Italian mystic St Francis of Assisi:
Master, let me be an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
May the Peace of Christmas be with you.
Sebastian Liew, MNHAA (Australia)