Saturday, 23 December 2006

The gift of time

MURDER. The investigation into the murder of five young girls in England has taken on a dramatic new turn.

This week two men were arrested and formally questioned for the killings, and just this morning one of them was released without charges. The other has been charged with the crimes, bringing with it the promise that finally the killer will be brought to justice.

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And yet, even with the capture and possible indictment of the suspected murderer, the case seems to ask even more questions than have already been answered. More so because the crimes took place during a season of celebration that is so close to all our hearts.

At the heart of the matter is the extent to which the bond of family relations has deteriorated in the West, and the attendant problems and difficulties that this brings into the society at large. Both the victims and the suspected killers seem to have been affected by this ominous development—this shared misfortune bringing them together into a destructive end.

Hearing the relatives of the young girls speak, almost to a family they echoed the same regret—that their daughters had already been “lost” to them long before they had actually died.

Most had no more contact with their kin, and all had very difficult relationships with their immediate family.

Lost because all had succumbed to the temptation of hard drugs—a habit so insidious that they seem to have surrendered all their humanity and self-respect, resorting to whatever means to fund their addiction, including selling their own bodies to virtual strangers for cash. In the end they traded even their lives for a craving too strong to resist, even potential harm mattered little in the equation.

The suspects seem to have suffered the same sad fate as the victims. From the little that we have been informed about their circumstances, it seems that they led pretty isolated lives themselves, either divorced or without loving relationships to speak of. In the end it seems that this took a heavy toll on their sanity, leading them to act in the way they did.

Victims and suspects alike were “victimized” by a phenomenon that now seems to consume most of the West, and spreading fast in our part of the world – the destruction of the family as a solid social unit, reinforcing positive behaviour on its members, and acting as a rock-solid support in terms of personal crises.

How has this happened when Christmas is as busy as it has ever been, with everyone engaged in a frenzied rush to get their loved ones the fanciest and most expensive presents? How can this be possible when it has been estimated that more and more people now go into debt every holiday season, their shopping sprees taking them a good part of the next year to pay off?

The answer, I fear, is lost in our orgy of spending—buried beneath the Playstations and Ipods, masked by the scent of Armani and Gucci perfume, and thrown away like the tons of tinsel and wrapping paper that we discard at the end of it all.

As my wife reminds me every now and then, there are three gifts we can give to one another—our time, our talent, and our treasure.

And we know of course which one is the easiest to part with, and which is the most difficult to give away.
But we need to give of our precious time.

We need time to listen to our children’s worries, address their anxieties and allay their fears.

We need to take time to praise their work and celebrate their accomplishments. And difficult as it may be to do at times, we need to spend time in firmly reminding them of the error of their ways, so they may walk on the right path again.

Our time is the most precious gift we could ever give our loved ones this Christmas.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Published in Sun Star Daily, Saturday, December 23, 2006 (

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