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Pessimists and optimists

In a faraway land an old man sat on a stone bench at the outset of the town every day. He loved watching the merchants headed for faraway lands, peasants coming to the market place and travellers from a long way away.
One day a stranger asked, “Tell me, old man, what are the people here like?”
“Where are you from?” the man asked in reply.
“From the town behind the mountains.”
“And what were the people like over there?”
“They were not very interesting. I find them cold, mean and withdrawn,” the stranger said.
“Here,” the old man said, “you will also find the people cold, mean and also withdrawn.” So the stranger bypassed the town.
A little later, another stranger asked, “Tell me what are the people living here like?”
Once again the old man asked the stranger where he came from.
“I am from the town, over there, behind the mountains,” was the reply.
“And what were the people like over there?”
“They are fantastic,” came the reply accompanied by a broad smile. “They are generous, friendly and warm.”
“Here,” the old man said, “you will also find the people generous, friendly and warm.”
And the stranger entered the gate of the city.
What we focus our hearts and minds on will be reflected in all we see and do. On the first Christmas morning, all who encountered the newborn child reflected the love, peace and joy emanating from him.
Our invitation during Advent and each and every Christmas, is to stand in the midst of all of God’s gifts to us and let these gifts so infuse our being that we may celebrate the gifts we have received and see them reflected in our family, community, the world and all of creation.
“And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
This little story is one in a pot pourri of gifts for us to ponder. Some of the themes or images include gift-giving as relationship building; pitching tents; Mary’s quiet pondering; our call to be messiahs and the poor.
In the weeks leading to Christmas may we enter into each day looking to see in all those we encounter generosity, friendliness and warmth.