The gift of life
Christmas message by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.
“Fellow Barbadians, residents and well-wishers abroad, a blessed Christmas morning to all. We have a lot to be thankful and grateful for, this particular Christmas.
“By now, most children would have opened their Christmas gifts or be making their way to the Christmas tree or the centre table for their presents. I remember it only too well. But, you know, when we think of it this 2020 Christmas, we have all received the ultimate Christmas gift, yes, the gift of life.
“When you consider what many throughout the world are enduring and what we have gone through over the past ten months, I say to you this morning, we have a lot to be thankful for.
“Hope is still alive but, above all else, we are still fighting the good fight.
“My dear friends, throughout the history of mankind, nothing has taken more human lives than infectious diseases. We’ve heard them all, the bubonic plague and others. And now today we have COVID-19 – 1.7 million people have succumbed to this dread pandemic worldwide. It serves as a sobering reminder that we are vulnerable as human beings and that life truly is indeed a blessing. As I listened to those birds fly over us, I know that life truly is a blessing. Our prayers are with the families of those who regrettably are no longer with them at this time.
“Now, more than ever, we must remember to show one another the kind of selfless love that has spurred our forefathers’ success in building this nation of ours that we call home. While it is traditional to come together during this time of year, we need now more than ever, and I say again, more than ever to stay together and to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. These are not just idle words that I’m using, but this is what we need in the months, in the years ahead.
“I know I’ve told you before, all of this, but I’m asking you, more than ever, for us to show each other that love and consideration. Our parents, many of them did not even know what it was to have grown up in the time where people’s lives were just being taken from them and where we’ve seen the kind of restricted movement and lockdown that we’ve had to endure in 2020.
“So, from here onwards, let us collectively take on the responsibility of ensuring Barbados’ success through these globally challenging times. We don’t have to look far for examples of our people showing selfless concern for the well-being of others in our communities and in our places of work and in our churches. We grew up hearing about the share pot. We grew up also understanding that those who didn’t have would give. So that this is not alien to our culture, we just need to reinforce it.
“And then of course, there are our 2020 heroes that we need to remember – our frontline workers, our lab technologists, our nurses, our doctors, our orderlies. They truly have raised the bar for selfless acts of patriotism. And we salute you truly.
“Equally, every day, without fail, the essential services that kept our country functioning all along before; they have continued. And who are they? They are you, the postal workers, the garbage collectors, the utilities personnel – all of these have maintained a sense of normalcy in 2020.
“And, of course, last but not least, the brave men and women of the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Barbados Defence Force. They have both worked to keep us safe as a nation and as a people.
“While we shower them with deserved adulation, let us go one step further as the brothers and sisters and help them where we can. We cannot betray their hard work by taking this pandemic for granted or by letting our guard down just because we believe that it is under control in Barbados. Every day must count.
“I’ve said to you, ‘the enemy of vigilance is complacency’. Our success in navigating these troubled waters will only occur when all hands [are] on deck. As our Minister of Health, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, reminded us on Sunday, our success so far, must not be the basis for us to take our eyes off of the prize. You cannot let complacency unravel 12 months of hard work. Trust me on this. It is for us all to benefit from being vigilant day, by day, by day, even Christmas Day.
“As we have done since the start of the year, the Government of Barbados will keep a close eye on what happens next. We will make sure that we listen to the experts and we will be prepared to act decisively to protect the lives of all Barbadians, as we have been doing during the course of 2020.
“The target we must set for ourselves, therefore, in 2021, as citizens and residents, is to continue mitigating the knock-on effect of COVID-19 on all of our health services. To put it simply, when we minimise the number of cases of COVID-19, we conversely maximise access to health care and the resources for our non-COVID patients and we have seen it over the course of the last eight months.
“It is therefore imperative, my friends, that in 2021 we continue to heed the advice given by our health officials and that we hold each other accountable for making the right decisions. This conscientiousness will in turn lighten the load for those responsible for delivering what will be, next year, the biggest immunisation programme in this country’s history.
“I’ve always said that while we may not know what the future holds, we will always be in control of determining how each of us responds to the challenges that the future raises.
“And yes, I know we can, because our capacity to rebound was apparent when we wrestled our way back from one of the worst recessions that this country has faced since we became independent. We have since that time, stabilised the economy and restored the faith of our creditors and global partners.
“Today, Barbados is once again respected around the world, and this country has once again resumed its leadership, both regionally and globally across a range of development issues but, in particular, the one that frightens us the most, the climate crisis.
“In these achievements, we should therefore take confidence in our resilient ability to bounce back. With vaccinations being distributed globally, I am confident that while the fight against this disease is not over, the day will soon come when COVID-19 will be referred to as a thing of the past.
“We must therefore use this period to continue learning new skills while sharpening the existing ones in our repertoire, in preparation for the post-COVID reality.
“I’m told by many older than me that what we witnessed during the lockdown earlier this year has been one of the best examples of Bajan resilience and creativity. We would do well for ourselves and our families to keep that energy, for it will hold us in good stead when normalcy returns.
“At a later date, I will discuss in greater detail the vision for 2021, but not this Christmas morning. Until then, I want you to ensure that we end this year with the same level of caution and maturity that has seen this country set an example for others to follow. Yes, all of us, have set that example.
“And I want us to recognise that while we may be blessed, do not ever take these blessings for granted. Make the most of the gift of life. And yes, each one touch one, even if virtually today. One of the biggest lessons we would have been reminded of this year, is that we all need each other – all of us.
“From here onward, I want our community spirit to mirror our Christmas spirit. Remember, as we do so, practice makes permanent. And if we can make a habit of this, then that habit of shining light on the ones among us who are most vulnerable, will make sure that they too will rise up and be able to survive the greatest of challenges. We will do that by putting their needs ahead of our wants.
“I want to assure you that such sacrifices, my friends, will not be in vain, because we can only beat COVID with strength in numbers. Every citizen and every resident of Barbados has a part to play in this fight against this dreaded disease. Only through working together, believe you me, only through working together can we move past the uncertainty and march towards the light that we know is at the end of this tunnel.
“I am confident that once we remain focused, 2021, yes, 2021 will be a year where we will reap what we have worked so hard this year in 2020 to sow.
“So, my friends, I want to wish all Barbadians and all residents in our country, a relaxing and a healthy Christmas. We need to recharge the batteries for the New Year and we shall do so over this season. And while we may have started this innings strongly, I urge you, always, to use this time wisely to set new targets, to take new guard where necessary, and of course, to bat on.
“May God continue to bless each and every one of us all in the coming year and beyond. And may we rise to the occasion to continue to be our brothers’ keepers and our sisters’ keepers. God bless.” (PR)