Let’s do what the ancients exhort us to do: adopt a generosity of spirit towards each other

Let’s do what the ancients exhort us to do: adopt a generosity of spirit towards each other
Illustrative image | (Photos: Freepik | Gallo Images | Rawpixel)

How different our world would be if we all rebelled against this global philosophy of greed and destruction, and applied our considerable minds and skills to finding solutions instead of creating more problems. Imagine, in whatever little way we can, we all became Santa Clauses, every day. Now that would be magical!

Dear DM168 reader,

One of my first experiences in the workplace after I finished matric was a holiday job at a Jet store in Durban. I had to dress up as an elf in green and red, and wear a floppy, pointy hat, and take photographs of children with a fake white-bearded Father Christmas, who happened to be my younger brother.

It was cheesy and corny to have two teenagers sweating in hot suits in the sweltering subtropical African summer, pretending to be geriatric elven folk from the North Pole who would come bearing toys at Christmas dragged around on a sleigh by aerodynamic reindeer. A whole lot of codswallop that lit up the eyes of every child I photographed sitting on my brother’s lap.

I guess we all need a little Christmas. A little joy. A little magic. Even if the OG Santa, St Nicholas, was actually not from the North Pole, but from Myra in 4th-century Greece, now Demre in modern-day Turkey – where the warm Mediterranean weather is more like Durban than the melting ice caps of the Arctic.

St Nicholas may not have had a team of elves making and wrapping toys in a factory on the North Pole for him to drop through chimneys, but after his wealthy parents died when he was young, he is said to have given away his immense inheritance to the poor and needy, before joining the priesthood. His gifts were always given to alleviate the suffering of the poor, wronged and destitute.

About seven centuries before St Nicholas, a similarly wealthy and privileged 29-year-old Siddhartha Gautama did the same thing in southern Nepal. Siddhartha was showered in luxury, sheltered from the outside world by his nobleman father. Once he saw the reality of death, poverty and disease beyond the palace walls, the founder of Buddhism eschewed his life of wealth and privilege to become an ascetic, pursuing a path to enlightenment to try to answer the question of human suffering.

In Islam, the Quran speaks about the “recognised right, for the needy and deprived” over wealth (70:24-5). By giving for the sake of others, a Muslim is fulfilling a duty to those in need. The incredible work of Dr Imtiaz Sooliman and the Gift of the Givers in South Africa and around the globe is based on this fundamental philosophy.

The same notion of giving is present in the Hindu Vedic scriptures: “One may amass wealth with hundreds of hands but one should also distribute it with thousands of hands. If someone keeps all that he accumulates for himself and does not give it to others the hoarded wealth will eventually prove to be the cause of ruin.” (Atharva Veda 3.24-25).

Jesus, whose birth Christmas commemorates and whose teaching St Nicholas followed, instructed a rich young man to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. When the young man showed difficulty letting go, Jesus’s response was: “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:21-26). This revolutionary element of early Christian teachings so threatened the ruling classes of Judea, that Jesus was crucified. But his ideas lived, as was evidenced about four centuries later when St Nicholas handed out his wealth to the needy.

What all of these global spiritual traditions speak of, including our African notion of ubuntu – which means that a human being achieves humanity through his or her relations with other human beings – is that our interconnectedness as humans demands a generosity of spirit towards each other.

This humanist exhortation by the ancients is the antithesis of this past year of Death, Famine, War and Conquest. A year that forebodingly felt like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had arrived to ride roughshod over all of us. But, no, our disasters were not biblical revelations fulfilled, but sheer misery wrought by a bunch of bad leaders all over the world who have all placed power and profit over people.

How different our world would be if we all rebelled against this global philosophy of greed and destruction, and applied our considerable minds and skills to finding solutions instead of creating more problems. Imagine, in whatever little way we can, we all became Santa Clauses, every day. Now that would be magical!

Our gift to you this Christmas, dear reader, is 88 pages of inspiration and entertainment from our Daily Maverick team in this final edition of DM168 for the year. There are 18,000 copies of the paper available at retail outlets around the country from Sunday, 17 December, to Friday, 12 January. Whether you are a Maverick Insider with access to the e-edition or an online-only reader who has never held a copy of DM168 in your hands, I urge you to support our journalism by giving yourself, or someone deserving, a copy of this year’s bumper edition.

In this year’s final bumper edition, we offer you:

  • A must-keep Zapiro “The year that exploded…” front-page cover.
  • A gift of a double-page 2024 calendar featuring cartoons by Zapiro.
  • Marianne Thamm’s acerbic take on 2023, the year that exploded and what this portends for the year to come.
  • Several stories about inspiring South Africans who are making a difference in all spheres.
  • J Brooks Spector’s analysis of the world at war in 2023.
  • Marianne Merten writes about a potentially whole new look for Parliament from 2024 with independents, but fundamental questions, from law-making and parliamentary culture to implementing Zondo Commission recommendations, remain.
  • Insightful previews of what is to come in 2024 in terms of politics, crime and justice, local and global business, and sports by our expert writers Ferial Haffajee, Caryn Dolley, Ed Stoddard, Tim Cohen, Natale Labia, Craig Ray, Yanga Sibembe and Jon Cardinelli.
  • Hilarious satires by Rebecca Davis, who has suggested New Year’s Resolutions for those who stole the limelight, and Malibongwe Tyilo on the Greatest South African Show that you are not watching.
  • Travel, book and film reviews.
  • The winning recipes of our No Mere Trifle Festive Holiday Dessert competition baked by our foodie, Tony Jackman.
  • Four pages of crossword puzzles to keep your mind busy over the break.
  • A 16-page People of the Year supplement where all Daily Maverick readers who voted in our online survey will find out who the winners and runners-up are.
  • An eight-page MavericKids pull-out supplement featuring loads of fun activities for the holidays.
  • A sporting calendar of 2024’s highlights.

I wish all of you a well-deserved break and a pause from the madness. Thank you to all of you who generously support our journalism by buying our newspaper every week or by being Maverick Insiders. This is our last edition for the year.

Our next edition will be published on 13 January 2024. Don’t forget to email your wishes for the new year to [email protected].

Also send me photographs of your interpretation of joy (high resolution) by 7 January 2024. If there are enough good-quality pictures submitted, I will publish a double-page spread of them in the first edition of 2024.

Happy holidays!

Yours in defence of truth,


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    very refreshing if only the world can have 1 christmas of peace the heavens will shine upon us

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    Thank you Heather. Your article resulted in much reflection. One is reminded that one can do much more to make a difference in our imperfect world.

  • Tom Lawson says:

    It has been a joy to read the Daily Maverick here in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA, and Heather I was inspired by your last column of the year. Thanks!

  • Citizen X says:

    So needed in world hell bent on self destruction and the greed of a few. Thanks for the selfless serving of the many beings around us like gift of the givers, salvation army, red cross and many more. Great article for those of us who want to be better human beings. May peace reign.

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