Atherley: Be thankful for ‘small things’

Christmas message from Bishop Joseph Atherley, Leader of the Opposition:

A very blessed Christmas to all. What we as Barbadians reflect on and rejoice in at this annual season is the revelation of the world’s greatest wonder revealed in a very menial circumstance – in the small space of a cattle stall. The celebration of the world’s greatest gift received in the small package of an infant child.

In several respects it is the story of the value and importance of small things. I would like, as I greet you on this blessed day, to encourage us as a people to focus on and address some small things of urgent importance.

Let us begin by being thankful for the small things in life. Often, our sense of gratitude shows itself in relation to the big things of our experience, while we take for granted or overlook the seemingly small things: a hand of help that is there in our time of need; a voice of comfort or counsel that speaks to us in our times of challenge or even confusion; an offered smile that rekindles our spirits during our frequent episodes of darkness, sometimes even dense darkness; the loyalty of friends; the love of family; a small raise; a little advancement in life, and a small opportunity, unexpected and perhaps even undeserved.

Let us be thankful to others for all they have added to our lives. For looking out for us. For looking after us. Particularly so our medical, health and other professionals who steadfastly and selflessly have stood between us and the COVID-19 threat these last two years, notwithstanding their own challenges and difficulties. Above all, let us as a people be thankful to God for even the small blessings on our land and lives.

One lesson of Christmas is this: Realise the majesty and miracle that attach to small things. We should be careful to take care of the small things. We need to remind ourselves that each of us has a duty of care to each other.

We have a duty of care to nurture properly those little ones who are our collective responsibility. To carefully protect them from the assault and ravages of ill winds which will blow their way. To project positively the virtues and values of wholesome human socialisation, and its potential to yield a future lived out in the sunlight of privilege, opportunity and blessing in this small land.

We have a duty of care to be mindful of him to whom we generally refer as the small man, for whom we reserve and to whom we allocate that perpetual small space on the canvas of life.

We have a duty of care to that embodiment we call the average Barbadian; that one who struggles to survive on a small wage in the face of stagnant income levels and escalating cost of living.

We have a duty of care to that single mother who is losing the battle to keep body and soul together, while raising children in the face of either the frivolous or forced absence of fathers.

We have a duty of care to the thousands of under-employed, especially our females, who labour largely for the gain of others and in situations of various types of exploitation.

We have a duty of care to the small multitudes cramped in small spaces they must call homes, makeshift chattel devoid of the conspicuous utility and amenity associated with the other Barbados.

We have a duty of care to the small entrepreneur whose self-efforts do not sufficiently attract the helping hand of the state or catch the eye of its privilege.

But we should also be cognisant of the potential of small things to make a big difference . . . . Small space is no limitation or constraint to big ambition or great aspirations or gigantic achievement. Ask a Garry Sobers, a Robyn Fenty, a Suki King.

Small nations can have and must have a big voice in today’s global theatre. That voice must be loud on climate change, an existential threat which portends dark days for our children. That voice must be loud on fair financing, which does not take account of resource capacity and vulnerability profile. That voice must be loud on trade inequities and sustainable development impediments which consolidate capital wealth, industrial and technological advancement, and afford market advantage in a context of skewed growth.

Small space can also contain big treasures. This small space we call Barbados is about more than a cave, about more than a coastline, about more than a countryside. It is about our patrimony. With all of its blemishes, it is our paradise; our small garden treasure to be preserved for our progeny.

Our Parliament is one of our treasures. It is a comparatively small Parliament, though one of the oldest in this hemisphere. Its primacy in the life of our people and its prominence in our architecture of constitutional democracy render its function almost a sacred duty. It is a treasure the value of which is not to be diminished by surrender of character or conscience to compromise, or the commoditising in any form of the noble duty of community representation or national service.

The ultimate treasure in this small island space, however, is our people. I remain firmly of the view that the multiple millions of dollars from our small purse, properly spent on education and training, on health care, on social services, is not an expense but an investment; an investment intended to preserve and enhance that treasure – our Barbadian people.

. . . . Barbados is a small-space state populated by a small-sized number of people destined for greatness. The principle elements required in our nation-making efforts are God, and that has always been the case, and growth, more urgent now than ever. God plus growth equals greatness. Yes, indeed, it is about majesty and miracle in a small child born in a small space in a little town.

To you and yours, throughout this season, I extend on behalf of the parliamentary Opposition, Senators Franklyn and Drakes and myself, together with my family and members of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development, every wish for a blessed Christmas season.

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