I have been teaching a Cultural Diversity course at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School in Suzhou, China for nearly four years now. I try my best to stay in touch with some of my students who have transferred to various Universities outside of China including the United States.
Every semester there are special students that stand out from the rest. Itís not for their remarkable intellectual skills but rather they have a deep interest in going out and making a difference in the world. My students are also fully aware that their educational opportunities are a means to accomplishing their dreams.
I tell them that when I was in college I enjoyed visiting nursing homes and assistant living facilities. The history lessons that an elderly person can provide are boundless. They are also living witnesses to the events and things that made them who they are. Taking the time to listen to what they have to say can make their lives more purposeful and not to mention their life story can be priceless.
When my students ask what my plans are for Christmas I simply tell them. I am one of those people who simply enjoys the sharing and to give thanks for the special people in my life. That truly makes this time of year special for me especially here in Suzhou, China.
I surely have plenty to be thankful for because throughout my life people have gone out of their way to be kind to me and the Chinese here are no exception. I once told my students in class when you care for others you are cared for and when you love others you are loved. This special season of giving should reveal our love for one another through kindness because loving kindness gives this special season its true meaning.
Here like in America parents and children alike also take great joy in Santa's arrival on Christmas Day. I also enjoy seeing the young children's faces light up at the sight of Santa the jolly old soul.
There was a time though when I felt the season of giving was simply a common courtesy in order to receive and provide our significant others with material gifts.
I now understand more clearly that this special season is for heartfelt acts of gratitude for having people in our lives. When keeping the true spirit of giving close to our heart it enables us to give from the heart all year-round.
The yuletide season should be a time when our love comes to call because that love gives this time of year its true meaning.
I have found over the years, though, that it's not the material gifts that count in life but rather it's the unrecognized, undetected and unremembered acts of loving kindness that are our greatest gifts and achievements in life.
If we truly want to see a world of loving and joyous people we must be loving and joyous toward the people in our own lives. That potential is part of our humanity. When we reach out and touch others we touch part of the humanity that is within us. When we enhance the life of another in need we in turn enhance our own lives.
Objects gift-wrapped in shiny paper can be forgotten over time but kindness whispered to those in need will echo endlessly throughout the community. Those small acts of kindness resonate with the giver and the receiver because they are gifts from the heart. Such priceless gifts can never be measured monetarily though because how can you put a price on love?
From my heart to yours I would like to wish all of you a very merry and joyous holiday season.
Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F OíNeill
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