IT’S Christmas Eve once more folks where thousands will throng churches and yuletide parties later tonight, as children everywhere with beady eyes await eagerly to unwrap the presents that Santa will leave for them under their Christmas trees.
Who among us dare say that our lovable big-fat-man-with-the-long-white-beard doesn’t exist?
I, for one, am a great believer of Father Christmas.
What I don’t buy, however, are the stories told about him having a permanent home somewhere all the way up in the North Pole.
Saint Nicholas, as he is also fondly known, is much closer to us than we think.
And he doesn’t only come around once-a-year as some would have us believe. Why, he lives virtually among us round the clock throughout the year.
I believe he takes the form of the good people we meet in our daily lives.
Sure, he may have his detractors. Which good man or woman doesn’t, these days?
No matter what good one does, there seem to be more critics than people who appreciate the good that has been done.
However, accusing the jolly old man of stealing the real meaning of Christmas is really going a tad too far.
Hey, it’s not his fault that some people decide to lose their focus on the origins of a very special baby born in a manger that happened 2000 years ago.
After all, good ol’ Santa for many – including me – epitomises the true spirit of tomorrow’s special holiday.
And have we given real thought about what would the season of goodwill and cheer be like for children, the poor and the marginalised of the world without having St Nicholas around?
For instance, forget the usual and stereotypical stuff about Santa bearing gifts in big shopping malls and hotels.
I was driving around the poor areas of Petaling Jaya, such as in PJS and Old Town only last week and couldn’t help but marvel at what I saw was happening there.
Clearly for the first time in local history, the pavements on the road that were being upgraded were being built with user-friendly designs with everyone in mind.
All the ends of the pathways were made with kerb cuts that allow easy access for wheelchairs.
Mothers with prams and even the elderly with walking difficulties (and one day probably with special scooters like in other countries) will also be able to use the pavements.
The pathways are also safe for children. But that was not all.
The new pavements also include tactile marking for blind pedestrians. This is to help them move about independently and safely.
I am absolutely elated that once completed, residents with disabilities and the elderly will be able to venture out for the very first time in their lives to the local shops, parks and other places where most people go to instead of being imprisoned in their homes.
I’m also thrilled that such facilities are being incorporated everywhere rather than in certain spots only.
This is because disability can – and often does – strike anyone, anywhere and at anytime.
The only thing we can all be certain about is that we are all getting older every day.
Now, I don’t know about you folks, but to me the positive changes happening around especially during Christmastime is a strong indicator that unknown to us, the magic of St Nick could possibly well be in play here with the local council authorities.
And what a joy it is that the town planners are adopting a more progressive and comprehensive approach towards disabilities and old age issues in the city.
With more and more upgrading measures implementing user-friendly designs it won’t be long before the entire city is transformed into a true people-friendly and caring environment.
Tonight I won’t be at midnight mass in church. But I know that many other disabled and elderly persons will be.
Now would be the best time than any for churches throughout the country to take a disability and elderly access audit exercise to consider how caring their buildings have been to these disadvantaged groups.
Are they more accessible to people in wheelchairs than they were last year, for instance?
Do they provide wheelchair ramps at their entrances? What about wheelchair-accessible restrooms, lifts and covered reserved car parks so that handicapped and elderly church-goers will not be left out in their activities?
Are there song sheets in Braille for the blind and sign language facilitators for the Deaf?
And what about specially adapted classes for people with learning disabilities?
The spirit of goodwill and cheer shared by Santa (and the real reason for the season) during this time of the year can only be shared when our hearts (and buildings) are opened wide to all persons, no matter who they are.
Ho, ho, ho and Merry Christmas from Wheel Power!
The EndPET+BLOGSPOT is the official online blog of the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (Petpositive).
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