Finally, the festive holiday season has arrived in Jamaica.
The “Christmas Breeze” that Jamaicans refer to in our area has finally returned, giving us cooler evenings and mornings (which means I go from constantly sweating to sweating not as much). Our host family has strung up some Christmas lights and festive ornaments on the house. The community center where I work has their fake Christmas tree up, garland, and lights running along the walls. It almost feels like Christmas back in the States but, thankfully, a lot warmer. With all this Christmas, festive cheer I am reminded that this is also a tough time of the year for many. It reminds me of a man, let’s call him Nick, that came to our community center this past year.
Our community center sits along the busy main road/highway leading into our town. It’s a great location for traffic and we get a lot of community members that walk in curious to find out what we do. One day a man named Nick came into the center with a serious and desperate look on his face. Nick explained that he was sick of being homeless and needed help. Nick told us that he was from this part of the island but had lived in the States illegally for about 15 years till he was discovered and subsequently deported. In these situations, the first thing we try to do is connect the person to someone he knows, a friend or family member. When we asked Nick about this, he quietly and intensely said, “I don’t know anyone.” We did our best to try and connect Nick to some local non-profit organizations and churches and every now and then he’d stop by to try and sell something. I haven’t seen him in awhile and I’ll never forget what he said.
“I don’t know anyone.”
It pains me as I write this, thinking about Nick and wondering if he truly has no one in his life that he cares about and, more importantly, cares about him. To me this is the greatest and saddest form of poverty: the lack of relationship. At our community center, we work with a lot of people that don’t have much. People can’t afford to send their kids to school on a regular basis. People have poor housing conditions. Many struggle on a daily basis just to feed their families. But no matter the scenario, many of these people still have friends and families that will support them. They know someone. Nick was the first person I have ever met who I truly believed he didn’t know anyone. I’ll never forget the sad desperation in his voice.
This Christmas I am once again reminded that the most important gift that we have is relationship. It is the people we have in our lives and the time that we get to spend with them that is worth more than any thing that can be bought and wrapped.
May we continue to be thankful for the gift of others in our lives, and may we continue to be gifts to others in return.
J & M