It is early morning and I am ready for my yearly Christmas ritual, a simple ritual that brings me great joy at this time each year. I put the Christmas tree lights on, insert my favorite holiday music into the DVD player, and arrange the table for this work I so love: Christmas cards, address book, cardboard boxes, paper bags, stencils, packaging tape, glitter, and glue all have their special on this altar I call the dining room table.

I did not purchase any of these items for this day. Instead they’ve accumulated over the years: stored, reused, repurposed. I save one thing here, and one thing there throughout the year. Those wonderful boxes from mail order purchases are stored in the basement, brown paper bags are neatly folded and put away. Last year’s Christmas cards are refashioned into lovely gift tags and decorative garlands.

I am ready to begin. The boxes with their packaging noodles still inside are filled with gifts and wrapped with the brown paper from the bags saved. A simple Christmas stencil and glitter add a classy touch. I did a good job, I think to myself. As I write cards I am aware of the coziness inside. Not only that but the gratefulness for the fullness of my life, all my needs are amply met … and then some.

Actually, I feel a bit guilt; this reusing, repurposing, recycling is done not out of necessity but out of choice. The choice of the well-to-do middle-class person. Of course these practices help declutter our earth and reduce the carbon footprint, but mostly they are a chosen way of life.

I think of the millions of human beings who are persecuted, who flee the most unspeakable conditions for a chance to have what I have: peace, tranquility, a full stomach, shelter from the cold — and ultimately — a meaningful life.

I choose to live by the old adage “Less is more.” I understand the words of this profound maxim with renewed wisdom, a gift that only age and experience can bring.

The thought that innocent children throughout the world have more knowledge and experience of this world’s cruelty breaks my heart.

I will donate generously to various charities this Christmas. It is the best gift I can give myself.

Cidalia Thibault lives in Skowhegan.

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