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Season of Goodwill December 20, 2011

Posted by Sneha Khilay - Blue Tulip Training in Uncategorized.

Christmas is generally recognised to be about hope, cheer and goodwill.  Although there is a certain cynicism about Christmas decorations arriving in shops from August as well as a frenzy of shopping, parties and exposed family dynamics, the build up to Christmas is still exciting, with a feel good factor and the anticipation of presents, good food, time with family and friends and the much needed seasonal break / rest.

So exactly what is it about the spirit of giving at Christmas time?  Does giving bring out the best in people or place us under undue pressure?  TV is on the one hand besieged with adverts trying to get us to buy, on the other hand, programmes and adverts emphasise ‘donating to the less fortunate’.   In parallel, there are the stories featuring individuals who have devoted their lives to others, for instance, a 78 year old woman who has fostered 300 children to date.  

Is it enough for the spirit of giving, generosity and acknowledgment of the needs of others to take place only during Christmas?  I read a blog recently where a business woman writes in detail that she will be handing out hampers to ‘the needy’ during the Christmas season.  Some charities organise volunteers to visit prisons, especially on Christmas day and Boxing Day.  So, what would it take for people to act like Santa all year round?

Despite financial difficulties brought on by the current recession / economic downturn, the Future Foundation survey indicated that 75% of respondents derive more pleasure from giving (presents) than they do from receiving them. 

Many people are forced to count every penny, after being hit by the increased costs of living, particularly the price of food and energy.  However, surveys indicate that people will give money to a friend in need, in spite of it affecting their own finances.  The Living Costs and Foods Surveys shows that lower income household are particularly generous around Christmas, when their giving goes up by 71%, in contrast to the more affluent, who donate most in the spring when the need to submit tax returns prompts them to take advantage of tax breaks for charitable donations.

And what about the down side, does self preservation override the Christmas concept of goodwill and giving?  A colleague told me of a neighbour putting up so many Christmas decorations and lights on his house / driveway that it became a local attraction.  Numerous people drove past the house to admire the decorations and, as the decorations increased year by year, people would stand outside the house to admire the lights.  However, there was a significant increase in burglaries in the neighbourhood.  As a result, neighbours united in demanding that the Christmas lights be toned down.  Some even exclaimed ‘And he is a Sikh!’  Setting aside the relevance of emphasising their neighbour’s religion, you can understand the need for people to feel safe in their home even if this sabotages the seasonal ‘joy’ to the passing public.

So what IS the season of goodwill?  Cynics and sceptics amongst us would say that people only give for the kudos, a claim to fame.  Optimists, the hopeful, the expectant would say that Britain is renowned worldwide for its positive response to many worthy causes and for helping neighbours and even strangers in need.

Although the season of goodwill is a short one, it epitomises the generosity of human nature and confirms that there are many things that are right in and with the world.  As Desmond Tutu so aptly said “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

So , wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, Best Wishes this Christmas.

Snéha is the Director of Blue Tulip Training which specialises in areas of Equality/Diversity and Bullying/Harassment. http://www.bluetuliptraining.co.uk



1. Walt Czerminski - December 22, 2011

Thank you Sneha for an inspiring holiday message. You’ve highlighted for me the essence of the human need that is certainly peaked during this time of year.
In the Inclusion discussion we talk about acceptance and respect as key indicators of an inclusive organization – we see that so strongly in an organic sense during the year end holidays in terms of the goodwill people direct towards each other – and we all hope to sustain that into the New Year for as long as possible.
Let’s all keep that thought as we pursue our Diversity and Inclusion mission throughout the year. How great to be living in a world where we all practice a higher level of goodwill towards all.

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