Christmas or any other festive magic is powerful, but the power in our hearts is even more magical. Our ability to love one another, to renew our faith and bring hope into our lives and the lives of others, are the greatest of gifts to bestow and receive. Christmas is indeed a time for sharing in gift giving and celebrating, too. And yet, the greatest gifts are not those wrapped in fine paper or dressed in colourful bows. They are those given with an open heart, one wrapped in the lovely ribbons of faith, hope, and love.
Taking this opportunity to start of a new chapter in The Indian Sun to introduce you to some of the strongest women around us. These unsung heroes will inspire us to be better people. There’s no better time than Christmas to introduce these wonderful souls, who embody the spirit of faith, hope and love.
First up, the story of Emaan Oudih in her own words.
The Meaning of Christmas
By Emaan Oudih
Manager, PEACE Multicultural Services at Relationships Australia SA
For people like me and maybe many of you too, the dynamics life change over time, and hence, the simple things in life start becoming deeper and more meaningful.
I come from Israel, Nazareth to be precise, where Jesus lived for 30 years of his life. I grew up celebrating Christmas often where Jesus was born in Bethlehem and in the most glorious of the ways. It was about praying and enjoying the music of love and peace, it was about cooking the most amazing food, decorating our houses and giving meaningful gifts to the young ones. However, it was only after coming to Australia that I realised my privileges and how much I have taken things for granted.
I remember how much of a hard time it was for us during the first few Christmases in Australia, we were missing home a lot, we felt isolated as oceans and cultural shock separated us from the extended family and other loved ones. Things were also taxing financially and could not possibly travel to visit the family as we were trying hard to save for our first home and for our kids’ education.
In particular, I remember our third Christmas in Australia. It was 3.30pm on Christmas Eve, my husband was still at work and I had just finished my nursing shift when I had an accident on my way to the shops trying to pick up gifts for my kids. The accident did not physically affect me, but the trauma of hearing my boys screaming and seeing the skin marks caused by the seat belt was beyond my tolerance level. I was traumatised, as I had never been involved in car accident before. And here I was alone, in Australia, without any social, support and without knowledge about how the system works.
The boys, who were eight and five years old at the time, were eagerly waiting to get their Christmas presents but we had to explain to their little minds the meaning of Christmas instead—that it is about the gift, it is about getting and giving love, about feeling connected and have family and friends. It is also about being healthy, happy and alive as well as being able to count all the blessings. Then suddenly, my eight-year-old son asked me if I had any wrapping paper to which I said, “No, I’m sorry I don’t even have that”. My son then took his five-year-old brother to his room and asked him to choose one of his favourite toys, and then he went to his room and picked his own favourite toy. He packed each toy in a newspaper and placed it under the Christmas tree. That Christmas Eve, those little hearts understood the meaning of care, sacrifice and love and I did too.
Few months later, I changed my job from hospital to community health nursing; there I paid more attention to the more vulnerable people who are isolated because life threw many challenges on their way. Some were homeless, others were missing their loved ones who either passed away or were unable to be with them because of different circumstances. Isolation without a doubt can cause many health problems, but the great news is that we can prevent it or at least address it; YES we can do something about it. Sharing the gift of love and care with someone who might be feeling lonely is a noble thing to do and this is the spirit of Christmas.
Today, I work at Relationships Australia South Australia (RASA) and have been working there for the last 18 years managing the multicultural services. We help all people regardless of their age, gender, culture and religion to maintain a good health and build a healthy meaningful relationship with family, neighbours and colleagues. We work with individuals, with couples, with families, with groups and with communities. We provide counselling, information, health education, case management, support and referral services. We always strive to help people be in control of their life and the decisions they take, to be and feel safe and connected. We offer services that can help people address issues related to themselves, their children’s health, parenting, family relationships, family violence, mental health, gambling problems, hepatitis, HIV and much more. All of our services are confidential and most of them are free especially the multicultural specific ones.