This Christmas column is dedicated to the memory of my father, the late Rev. Vivian Comissiong, a veteran minister of the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas, and a great son of our Caribbean civilization.
Rev. Comissiong’s concept of God was the Heavenly Father –– a father of perfect goodness and love towards His earthly children. It is not surprising therefore that the “Babe of Bethlehem” held a special place in his heart, and that he loved children –– all children –– and especially enjoyed the celebration of Christmas, which he regarded as the Festival Of The Child.
In a couple of days, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ, who admonished the world to “suffer the little children to come unto Me, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of heaven belongs”.
And so, as we celebrate Christmas, we should spare a thought for the children of our nation. Indeed, there is no better time to reflect on the welfare and well-being of our children, since Christmas, as Rev. Comissiong always maintained, is really the Festival Of The Child.
This is the perfect time, therefore, for us to give some thought to the several duties that we owe to all of the children of our nation.
Every child of our nation has a number of vital needs which must be satisfied if that child is to be nourished and to develop into a healthy, productive, well-adjusted adult citizen. And a good way to think about the needs of our children, and the manner in which these needs are to be met, is to conceive of our children or youth as requiring a number of vital “foods” in order that they be properly nourished.
So, what are the vital “foods” that each Barbadian child or youth requires, and that must be provided by his or her nation?
Well, there are some obvious material ones such as physical food, clothing, housing and health care. But there are also non-physical or “spiritual foods” that each child or young person needs, and that our Barbadian families/communities/Government/nation must provide for them. And it is these “spiritual foods” that I wish to focus on in this Christmas column.
Indeed, I would say that there are at least ten critical and vital “spiritual foods” we must give to our Barbadian youth. I therefore maintain that we must –– as a matter of sacred duty –– give our youth:
1. A sense of community. We must give our children (our youth) a sense that they “belong” to the Barbadian nation, and that they are connected in some way to every thing and everybody in Barbados –– that they are our communal sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins.
And we –– the adults of Barbados –– must demonstrate this sense of community by taking an interest in all of the youth of our nation, not merely our own biological children.
2. Respect. We must give the children of our nation “respect”! We must therefore speak to and treat our youth with respect –– the respect that is owed to every precious creature made in the likeness of almighty God. And if we nurture, and even discipline, our children with respect, we are likely to see a flourishing of their sense of dignity and self-worth.
3. A correct appreciation of human and social work. For our children’s sake, we must develop a national social narrative which confirms that the truly heroic, admirable and “cool” people of our society are those whose labour contributes vitally to producing the social ingredients for the society’s survival and development, rather than so-called “celebrities” who, typically, exist like social parasites and contribute little that is of true value to our society.
4. A role in society. We must assure our youth that we need them to play certain critical roles in society –– roles which they are best equipped to play. For example, in as much as the youth tend to be equipped with an innate and still uncorrupted sense of justice, they must be the idealists and moral champions of our society –– the ones whom we depend upon to point out to us when “the emperor is naked”.
In addition, equipped as they are with boundless energy, we must look to our youth for the force and strength to protect our communities and to bring sporting glory to the nation.
5. A sense of history. It is critical that we give our youth a true knowledge of their history –– a knowledge of the antiquity of their ancestors; of the heroic struggles of their forefathers; and of the outstanding historical accomplishments of their race. Furthermore, every young person should have a sense of historical continuity, and conceive of themselves as playing an important part in the unfolding historical mission or journey of their people.
6. A sense of accomplishment and importance. We must make it a point of duty to deliver to every young person in Barbados multiple opportunities to develop a sense of accomplishment and of importance to our society. This requires our nation to establish programmes and structures that make it possible for all of our youth to develop their various skills and aptitudes, and to be nationally recognized, regardless of family background or individual family wealth.
7. A sense of the spiritual and eternal location of their lives. Our youth must be given a sense that they are not merely material beings, but that they possess a vital connection to a higher spiritual realm of absolute goodness, love, truth and beauty. This will give them the perspective required to make a distinction between that which is merely transient and of fleeting value, and that which is profound and of eternal value.
8. A sense of a culture that belongs to them. It is vitally important that our youth be made to feel they are the possessors of a culture that belongs to them, and that is unique and valuable. We must never place them in a position where they are made to feel that someone else’s reality or culture is superior to theirs, and that they are required to be cultural borrowers.
9. A sense of a future. We must give our youth a sense of optimism, and imbue them with the confidence that there is a limitless future ahead of them, full of possibilities and opportunities for self-actualization.
10. A sense of self-worth. And finally, we must –– in all that we do –– ensure that we give our young an impregnable sense of self-worth in all dimensions of their being: that is, a sense of personal self-worth; a sense of national self-worth; a sense of racial self-worth!
I wish all my fellow Barbadian and Caribbean citizens a happy and blessed Christmas!
(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)