The yuletide season greets us once again amidst a time of fear and uncertainty, at a time when many citizens are struggling to make it through, with little energy remaining to muster the Christmas spirit. Instead of the intimacy that usually characterises this anticipated period, we are cautioned to exercise restraint. And the abundance often enjoyed, has since been replaced by necessity. But while the Christmas spirit may feel distant for some of us—it is not dead. The essence of Christmas continues to emerge in the most remarkable ways, at the unexpected moments, reminding us of the ultimate hope brought by the light of this world.
It is sometimes easy to forget that the first Christmas did not begin with good cheer, it began with a crisis. The nativity story occurs against the backdrop of a Roman census, and a frantic struggle by Mary and Joseph to secure a room with a child well on the way. This is not the start anyone envisioned for a birth of this magnitude, which forever changed the course of humanity. Still, within this story lies an extremely valuable lesson for all of us, despite our religious persuasion. It demonstrates that challenges will surface whenever we are on the cusp of a promise, yet we must bring forth that which we are called to do.
Through this story with undesirable beginnings came our greatest hope. And I want to encourage every Tobagonian, and every citizen, to fiercely guard your hope as we continue to navigate this pandemic. I know it is difficult to do so as we lose loved ones; it is difficult as persons continue to battle with the loss of income; and a general decline in a sense of safety. But, we cannot afford even at this point in time to loosen our grip on our hope for the future.
I am not asking you to cling to a wishful type of hope, or an idealistic sort of optimism. The hope I am asking you to adopt is not an abstract concept, this type of hope demands firm action to bring it to fruition. It is intentional; it is unflinching; it rides on a deep-seated belief that we can in fact make a difference. This hope is not a solo effort, it is the coming together of a whole, and it is powerful enough to bridge any chasm or divide. I am talking about a hope that remains expectant because it is aware of the deliberate efforts being made. That is the kind of hope I am asking us to tap into as Tobagonians.
A transformative and radical hope that is beyond aspirational. Strip away the layers and you will see that hope is simply a cloak for change, a yearning for a shift in circumstances. And therefore, we do not just long for hope, we create it, and we actively work towards it.
It may require patience and endurance from us, but these virtues are not outside our scope as a people. We have exercised patience before, and I am confident that we can do so again. Our parents, and grandparents, have recounted the memories of Christmas of yesteryear and the delayed gratification that was necessary. They waited for months before being able to purchase hams, apples, and grapes from the village corner shops. They endured long hours watching the ham boil in a pitch oil tin over a wooden fire, while fending off four-legged and two-legged predators. They also waited patiently to savour a slice of fresh homemade bread baked to perfection in the dirt oven. So, there is no doubt in my mind that we can practise restraint, while holding fast to hope, for the seed was already planted.
Brothers and sisters, this Christmas season also calls for goodwill. It calls for us once financially and emotionally able to lend our support especially to the vulnerable amongst us. Of equal importance is that we provide help in a manner which protects the dignity of those who we assist.
And as we celebrate yet another Christmas in the face of a crisis, it is paramount that we remain perceptive and compassionate to the needs of others. Let us proudly showcase that camaraderie, which remains one of our island’s greatest assets. Always pledging to keep an eye out for our neighbour.
To be able to celebrate another Christmas with life and strength is indeed a blessing. And I want to thank every healthcare and frontline worker fighting for this island, and country, on the frontlines of this pandemic. From the janitorial staff ensuring that the sanitation of our facilities is up to par; to the doctors and nurses providing urgent care and assistance to thousands of patients; and even those on the administrative side ensuring that they are all well-supported. We thank you for your tireless sacrifice and your unwavering commitment to your duties.
To the other essential workers, many of whom are unable to spend the holidays with their loved ones, I also express my sincere gratitude. Thank you for your service and your contribution to keeping us afloat during this critical time.
I also want to publicly thank Tobago for your support and giving this island the gift of good governance. This Administration is truly honoured to serve all of you; we are ready to put our shoulders to the wheel; and we are eager to introduce a new brand of politics which will propel this island forward.
May God, the source of our hope, fill us with joy and peace this Christmas season and for the road ahead. Please continue to hold the fort, as you share the cheer. Have a blessed and enjoyable Christmas Tobago and by extension Trinidad.