Christmas in Another Home

By Clarace J. Galeno

The author works at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a nurse. She grew up in the parish of Holy Family, in Bacolod City which was run by the Columbans before. Clarace used to be an active member of the Legion of Mary while she was still here. Here she shares her longing for Christmas at home and how she tries to celebrate it in a country that doesn’t believe in it.

Clarace with colleagues as they try to celebrate Christmas in their workplace.

One of the sure ways to uplift a Filipino spirit is to have a thought of Christmas. It is always a positive memory that we all hold dear in our hearts. Mine is no difference, having grown up in a close family that keeps Christmas tradition faithfully. It always brings a smile recalling those 9 morning masses preceding Christmas -It brings a smile to see the Christmas lights in each home, the decors, gifts, and lovely Christmas carols, and the spirit of faith, hope and love that it all evokes. Those were such happy memories to start. Yet, changes do occur.

In 2007, I started working as a nurse at the Emergency Department in one of the hospitals in Riyadh. December is wintertime in the city but I never expected it to be that cold. I thought Riyadh is a desert country and so it would always be scorching with dry heat.

Winter then was the busiest time in Pediatric Emergency. Most children who were brought in were suffering from various respiratory problems. It was Christmas Eve but I had to work for a night shift duty. Of course, it is not always a happy disposition to work during such time when every Christian would want to spend it with their love ones together instead. The call of duty demanded me to be in the hospital and to do the job. It was really a chaotic night with all those different cases to attend to that I had forgotten that it was already midnight. It was Christmas!

We paused for a while too, greeted one another and shared food. We celebrated in the workplace.

As the days passed by, things have become a routine that our daily encounters seemed to lose sparkle. In an area where stress is part of the job, it became normal to be cynical with all the happenings. It is said that we can see Christ in every person. But personally, it is quite difficult to be confronted daily with a culture so unlike from what I used to. And to see Christ in them? It is a challenge that I posted to myself. It somehow got me through to stay in perspective in dealing with other people. However I could say Divine Providence is more sustaining. By myself I can easily turn negative but the God of Love brings people even the irritating patient or colleague and unfavorable circumstances into an opportunity for growth.

Celebrating Christmas at home

In every decision being made in the workplace, there are a lot of things to consider. Yet above all, it is for the sake of our patients– persons made in the image and likeness of God deserving dignity and care. The idea of being far from home makes me hold on to my roots. The ingrained Filipino Christian value of patience is really tested in instances of petty encounters in an emergency scene. I may complain every once in a while but Jesus never did. I am blessed with good health and the opportunity to work and bless others with what I am doing is something worth thanking for. Being far from home makes me hang on to my faith, to the promise of Christmas that Christ Jesus brings salvation to all of us. It is making me reflect on to the message of Benedict XVI at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome on May 3, 2012. He said, “A place in which the relationship of treatment is not a profession out a mission; where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first seat of learning and the face of suffering man is Christ’s own Face."

A Blessed Christmas to each one of us!!!