I am especially honoured to greet fellow Barbadians, residents and visitors on this Christmas Day in my maiden Christmas message.
It is therefore a fitting time to thank all of you for the many warm and kind sentiments conveyed to me on my elevation to the post of Governor-General. I was both humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and well wishes and I look forward to your continued support.
It has been a busy year for me and I can unequivocally dispel the myth that Governors-General have little or nothing to do to keep them gainfully occupied.
As the Christmas Season falls so fortuitously at the end of the year, it provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ, in the context of happenings in our daily lives throughout the year.
Christmas has been traditionally associated with family, love, goodwill, joy, sharing and caring. As the Bible story recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel says: “Joseph also went from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.”
We are all familiar with the story of the humble circumstances of the birth of the baby Jesus, where there was no room in the inn, so he was born in a manger. This part of the story especially emphasizes the humility which we must all exemplify.
I believe that we can appreciate the anxiety of the young, pregnant Mary and possibly the fear surrounding the delivery of her child in a manger.
This is juxtaposed with the shepherds tending their flock by night in the cold countryside when they were visited by an angel. This certainly could not have been an easy job. We are told of the fear that the shepherds felt but the angel immediately reassured them, telling them of the “good tidings of great joy” – the birth of the Saviour of the world. There was great rejoicing, and the shepherds left their flock and visited the baby Jesus.
Over more than 2,000 years later, Christians all over the world still celebrate this event with the message of hope and love for all mankind because of the birth of Jesus Christ.
At the personal and national level, how are we incorporating this message in our daily living?
I am acutely aware of the dislocation, fear and anxiety that many persons are facing as a result of the implementation of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation Programme commonly known as BERT. It is impacting persons in all walks of life but it is necessary to improve our economic fortunes and we are all being asked to make the relevant adjustments. This is not the time to despair because of the challenges which we are facing. We must make opportunities out of the apparent threats. In Government, we have to carry out various reforms in order to restructure and streamline our operations and resource capabilities. These are needed now more than ever.
In all of the necessary changes and the resulting impact, I implore you to never lose sight of the personal touch or of the love for our neighbour as Jesus would have expounded in his ministry on this earth.
As Governor-General, I have had the privilege of being invited to be Patron of several organizations. The common thread in many of them is the voluntary work that they carry out for the benefit of the less fortunate throughout the year – not only at Christmas time. They personify the spirit of Christmas throughout the year with little or no fanfare. They provide a vital service in the community and are able to touch, in a tangible way, the lives of many persons who could have easily fallen through the social cracks within our society.
At this time, many of these organizations may be asked to do a bit more, given our current economic climate.
I am well aware that the post of Governor-General is considered in many circles to be synonymous with centenarians. This year, 30 visits were made to centenarians, and it is quite an experience. Many of them have stories to share and we should listen. On these visits, I always ask the family members to take good care of these nation builders.
In some instances, many of us take our senior citizens for granted. These persons are the bedrock of our society. We have progressed because of their hard work and sacrifice.
The majority of these senior citizens were not public figures, but they managed their affairs in challenging environments and can now look back and say to us that it was worth it for the wellbeing of their families.
As a country, we must therefore commit to celebrating our senior citizens, not shunning and pushing them aside. So often we hear or read of the plight and neglect of these persons. I am convinced that as a society, we can do better.
Many of the centenarians I have visited speak to the hard work that they have endured and the love of God that has propelled them to reach that special milestone. They can serve as an inspiration during these challenging times.
On the opposite spectrum, we can take comfort in the strides that many of our young people are making in several spheres of activity in the society. I have had the opportunity to interface with several of these young people who are the future leaders. They are positive, confident, have a global focus and are committed to their areas of endeavour.
This year, two of our young people were awarded Commonwealth Points of Light. These awards were made by Her Majesty, The Queen to thank inspirational volunteers across the 53 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.
I know that volunteerism is alive and strong across Barbados but it would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to make a plea for an organization of which I am presently the Patron but served for many years. The Barbados Boy Scouts Association – we need some committed men to serve as mentors for our young males. At this Christmas season, I entreat you to make a present of yourself and your time to the Association in the coming year.
It is common for us to spend much time lamenting about all that is wrong. I ask simply at this Christmas time for us to focus on thanking God for His many blessings beginning with the gift of His Son whose birth we celebrate today.
As a nation, this year we were spared the brunt force of any weather system during the hurricane season. We experienced the usual smooth transition from one administration of Government to another following the outcome of peaceful General Elections on May 24, 2018.
In our personal lives, we can also count our many blessings and in doing so, share a kind thought or a helping hand to someone less fortunate. I immediately think of those persons who lost their homes to fire earlier this month. I also remember those who are ill or bereaved at this time. May we make time to assist them in some way.
As I celebrate my first Christmas as Governor-General, I look forward to spending the time with my family and friends and sharing the joy and peace of the season.
I wish all Barbadians at home and abroad, residents and visitors to our shores, a very Happy Christmas and a blessed 2019.
May God continue to bless our beautiful country and give us the strength and courage to do our utmost to preserve this land and make it the best it can be.
Happy Christmas to all.