By Jacques Fleury
The Haitian Firefly Speaks
With all that we have been through this year: celebrating the second year of America’s first Black President and some wondering if they made the right choice; the announcement of the impending end of the war in Iraq; and last but not least, the floundering economy; which had some losing their jobs and homes and those who hitherto never thought they would be homeless in their lifetimes, found themselves succumbing to the dire economy and facing homelessness for the first time. Yet still I, like you, am dreaming of a white Christmas and most definitely ready to put 2010 behind me because “‘tis the season to be jolly!”
Soon, the snow will cascade from the December sky and it will lend on my waiting face like a lingering winter kiss, adorning trees that sparkle with shimmering lights with branches that seemingly spread like open arms as if to beckon blessings from above. And I, subdued with holiday cheer and even a little bit of jeer, recall memories of doves and wondering if the world will ever succumb to peace and love. So I began to ponder about what Christmas really means, at least to me.
I am not here to harangue you on the true meaning of Christmas, I am simply offering my understanding of this most wondrous time of year and you may or may not identify with me but hopefully you will. You see Christmas to me is about more than just ceremony. It is about more than the money we spend to impress our loved ones and desperately hoping that this will make them happy. Christmas to me is about celebrating life, family, and community. It’s about enjoying one another’s company and appreciating each other’s humanity. And by humanity I mean both positive and negative characteristics that make us all who we are. Anyone can love someone who loves you back, but the real challenge is to love someone who hates your guts.
Some of us may not be aware of this, but often our love is conditional. And I include myself in this category. How many times have you find yourself falling out of love with someone because you suddenly discover that they are (taking a deep breath) “human” and therefore “broken?” We are all broken pearls along the road. I’ll give you a near perfect example, I say near perfect because I’ve finally come to realize that as long as I remain a human being, I will never experience this great illusion of perfection. I once thought that my mother’s love was “perfect.” She herself claims that she had me because she wanted someone to love completely and who will love her back completely. But in her then youthful innocence, she did not foresee that her love for me would eventually be tested. The same thing applies to me; I did not foresee that my love for her would be tested in return. Ultimately time proved to be the great enemy of complacency. My mom, whom I saw as the greatest thing since the invention of the internet, became suddenly “human” and essentially imperfect when she, in anger over something I’ve done, used words as sharp as a newly sharpened #2 pencil with the intent to cut deep into my heart and psyche. And I, in overwhelming shock over her hurtful and abusive words, return the favor with even greater intensity then she. The whole ordeal was no flower arrangement and that’s for sure. It was that day that I realized that if my own mother, who claimed to love me more than her own life, could inflict such hurt upon me, than I reasoned that anyone else could do the same and again, myself included. It was during this dire revelation that I discovered human imperfection to negate any prior illusions of “human perfection” which fundamentally is an oxymoron. It was because of that incident that I reasoned to look to someone greater than my mighty mother for unrestricted love. It was at that time that I gleefully looked to Jesus Christ for eternal and unconditional love.
This brings me to speculating about the true meaning of Christmas. I truly believe that we can all find happiness with one another, granted that we do this one thing: learning to accept one another because of our humanity and not in spite of it. I know that a lot of you have different conceptions about religion and the whole idea of who God . I am not saying that my God is necessarily your God. My main concern is that you believe in something…anything. For I truly believe that believing in anything will fill you will hope since hope is the light that consumes all darkness.
Growing up in Haiti, in the middle Port-au-Prince city, I remember when the Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier government used to have Christmas for the kids in the Haitian White House. I remember the first time I heard of Santa Clause, except in Haiti, he is called “Papa Noel.” I remember being in total awe of Papa Noel. I thought that he was this magical being who was going to rescue me from the ills and perils of my childhood. I grew up with an abusive alcoholic stepfather. I remember the day my mom told me that she was going to marry him, I felt like the floor suddenly and violently collapsed right from under me. And I knew right then that my hitherto magical childhood was over. I even stopped believing in Papa Noel and my gained a premature mature composure and shaking my head in perceived adult mentality where I saw other kids fall over themselves to get to Papa Noel. But now, all these years later, I am trying to rekindle my fascination with the holiday season. As I walk around town at night, I bask in the glitter of the glimmering trees and exuberant smiles on the people’s faces and I start thinking about what Christmas really means.
The true meaning of Christmas for me is essentially love yourself and one another as you are; knowing that you and your life are “perfect” in the eyes of God. The true meaning of Christmas is not about out doing your neighbor’s Christmas decorations, or buying the most expensive gift for your loved ones. At the threat of getting too syrupy, the true meaning of Christmas should be about lending a smile to someone who bears a frown, offering a hug to someone in tears and providing food and shelter to someone in need. The true meaning of Christmas is about seeing one another as family and not as enemies. Don’t let the melanin in your neighbor’s skin determine whether or not he/she is worthy of your respect. Don’t let the size of your bank account or family breeding determine your worth or your neighbor’s worth. The true meaning of Christmas is seeing one another as ONE in the eyes of God. The true meaning of Christmas is about celebrating our legacies not deficiencies; it’s about fraternity and diversity not hostility and bigotry; collaboration not division; it’s about being giving, joyful, and thankful for what we have and not what we don’t have. Finally, it’s about the beauty and miracle of creation: the birth of Jesus Christ.
Even I struggle with these issues every day, so I speak from experience. I come face to face with anger and prejudice constantly, partly due to negative societal conditioning. But I constantly aim to eschew negative thought patterns to reflect a healthier approach. I use the following mantra: “Be a source of love and light in the face of prejudice and hatred.” And only then will you finally learn the true meaning of Christmas. Joeux Noel et Bonne Anne a tous (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All)!
Jacques Fleury is a Poet, Author & Columnist. His book: “Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir” about life in Haiti & America was featured in the Boston Globe. Sample or buy the book at: www.lulu.com. 20% of proceeds will go to Haiti charity Partners in Health. For personal appearances or comments contact Jacques at: firstname.lastname@example.org.