Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pay It Forward

This winter break has already been a much-needed relief from external pressures. I’ve been putting in quite a few hours at work, but I’ve also turned to some old abandoned projects to keep myself entertained. I decided to try my hand at watercolor painting to make my mom a Christmas present—a combined portrait of all of our horses. I haven’t dabbled in art since my junior year of high school, so I was a bit rusty, although pleased with the end result. I still haven’t figured out how to mount all the heads together on the matboard I bought, but I’m working on it. You can see other pictures here, and here, and here.

Today was my employer’s 26th annual ‘White and Bizarre Elephant Christmas Party,’ but my first year attending. I was unsure of what to expect; I knew some of the people, but not very well, and others were complete strangers—and of an utterly different social stratum than that with which I am accustomed. The food (all home-cooked) was quite good, though I craftily hid the lack of turkey on my plate, as my boss isn’t particularly fond of vegetarians. The gift exchange was interesting, to put it nicely. The gift I had brought was the hit of the afternoon and was “stolen” multiple times. A hand-crocheted mini-afghan my father won in a charity raffle, it was most popular and I was glad to see it go somewhere where it would be appreciated. A few raucous individuals, however, had found it most amusing to bring gag gifts to the party. One respectable older woman innocently plucked one of these nicely-wrapped beauties from the table only to uncover a plastic donkey which, when its ears were pulled, crapped out cigarettes. My loot was better, but only marginally—a set of nineties Wacky Fav-O-Rites tapes. Funny, I guess, but even if I had a cassette player, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be rockin’ out to Hot Rod Lincoln.

As I was helping with clean-up following the festivities, the farm foreman, a kind-hearted man who’s lived a bit of a hard life, came up to me and offered me his gift, a box of nice chocolates. Surely he wanted them, I said, or at least his kids or grandkids would eat them. But he was insistent—said he had too much candy as it was and didn’t need any more. I thanked him profusely and we wished each other a merry Christmas.

It was a small thing, but it got me thinking. I’m not by any means a bad person (I think!), but I am self-centered, self-absorbed, and, at times, greedy. I think we all are. If we could all be instead perhaps a bit more generous, a bit more concerned about others….

But it’s an old argument, one we all know and believe in yet at the same time, in our mocking cynicism, dismiss as hopelessly naïve and ridiculous. Human nature is too cruel, we say, this is the way things are. Yeah, it’s great if you’re a good person, but dammit, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.

I’m not one to preach The Reason for the Season. Given my glaring lack of religious convictions, that would be rather hypocritical. But still, Christmas is a time of family, coming together, charity, love, joy, peace on Earth and goodwill to men. So, a challenge for us all—one we should already do daily, yet all too often forget: this holiday season, pay it forward. Drop the cynicism (so what if no good deed goes unpunished?) and instead act not for reward, not for karma, but out of genuine, pure, unadulterated love.


secret agent woman said...

Your boss isn't fond of vegetarians? What a bizarre thing to hold a grudge about.

I'm not religious either, but I do believe in the power of metaphor and symbolism, and revel in the message of family, love, and the birth of hope. A merry and peace-filled Christmas to you!

BrightenedBoy said...

Hear, hear.

Not always easy to do, but an admirable pursuit.

Mozart said...

agent--I don't know her exact standing on the subject, per se, but I've heard enough disgruntled and offended rants on the subject (since she apparently assumes that I and everyone else with a hint of a brain agree with her) that I'm rather dreading the time when she does find out. There's bound to be a good lecture about nutrition and such in store.

BB--It's making the pursuit a reality that's the rub, eh?