Paulo Senior and Paulo Junior joined us for the Compassionate Living in Difficult Times retreat with Alan and Pippa. This was their first visit to TRC, and hopefully not the last.

One more challenging year has come to an end. But economic hardships and Covid-21 did not preclude families from getting together on Christmas Day. That was good! As we go into a New Year, please note that International Day of Families is celebrated on May 15. I guess that most of my friends are not aware of the date. We have all gotten so used to celebrating Christmas restrictively that we forget to acknowledge the Day of Families. I thought of this more profoundly early this month when I realized that my son and I would be spending Christmas “alone” in Johannesburg.

For the first time in 25 years, my family was split into three different countries during the festive season. We couldn’t even hold a Zoom Christmas dinner to bridge the emotional gap. A short moment of sadness eclipsed my mind, but I made sure it was short-lived. That’s right! We decided to pack the car, and together with a close Hindu friend, we headed to the Northwest province. Our destination was the Tara Rokpa Centre in Groot Marico District, some 260 km out of Johannesburg. We were far away from the social pollution of town. We spent some days together with people from different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds (Hindu, Christian, Buddhists, atheists), meditating on “Compassionate Living in Difficult Times.” We were a family practicing universal human values, celebrating what I am tempted to call the Universal Familyhood.

Young Paulo with Tshidi, Tanja’s dog.

We returned to Johannesburg just before Christmas Day. There was no traffic in town, which is expected at this time of the year. Less pollution, but it is a difficult time for those who earn a living standing by the robots. The streets were quiet. On our way home, we passed by a few people standing by the intersections. They looked sad and lonely in a country of immense human diversity. Lonely in the rainbow nation. It doesn’t have to be this way. I turned to my son, and he agreed with the idea of taking the rainbow nation to our home, i.e., spending Christmas together with people of different ethnicity who could not afford the traditional Christmas meal. It was time to get my cooking art and skills into practice in celebrating universal familyhood again. The Covid-21 test was not required, but empathy and humanity. We welcomed them home. It is the least my late Grandmother would have done.

Right now, I feel nothing else but profound Joy. May 15 is barely five months away. As we go into the new year, I would like to invite all my family and friends to celebrate our familyhood joyfully, with less social pollution. Let’s make 2022 the year you will call on your Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, African neighbor for a meal and celebrate our humanity, our universal values, and familyhood.

I wish you all a joyous 2022.

Paulo Filipe

December 2021