Before reading…take the quiz and reply at the bottom of the post with your top preference.
Christmas is all about showing those around you just how much you love them. When your Great Aunt Martha came to visit us at the camp this summer, she mentioned a book about the five ways we show love and though I prefer non-fiction that is evidence based, I browsed this book since the thesis is straightforward and there is some common sense wisdom worth remembering. Basically, if we learn which ways our loved ones prefer to receive acts of love, and respond accordingly, then we can enhance our relationships. Gary Chapman isolated five love preferences:
Physical Touch is not all about the bedroom. It includes holding hands, massages, cuddling and piggy backs. Presence, proximity and accessibility are crucial. A long time spent apart is difficult.
Quality Time is sharing quality experiences and conversations without distractions and interruptions. One pointedness is important and distractions are difficult.
Acts of Service is easing the burden of responsibility weighing one down. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes. Laziness, adding to one’s work, and broken commitments are difficult.
Words of Affirmation are unsolicited compliments. Kind, encouraging and positive words are life-giving. Insults are the opposite.
Receiving Gifts that require effort and thoughtfulness are a visual representation of love and are treasured. Missed occasions are not easily forgotten.
Typically we show love based on how we prefer to receive love, but we ought to show love based on the preferences of our loved ones. This rings very true for your mother and I. Maybe as a result of our radical minimalism, we do not usually enjoy receiving gifts (unless it is healthy food or baked goods) and likewise, when it appears that everyone around us has everything they need, we do not enjoy giving gifts (unless it is healthy food or baked goods). For us, physical touch was number one, closely followed by quality time and acts of service. Again, this accurately applies to both of us. We love a good foot massage, think cell phones are way too distracting, and make it our life’s mission to ease each other’s burdens and workload.
Asher, today we jumped in a tuc tuc and drove up the mountainside to the home of Miguel, Carmen and their son Christian. They could not bear to see our family of three alone on Christmas and they welcomed us in with open arms. Miguel runs a radio station out of his home that is broadcast across Honduras and between nibbles and mingles, he would dart back to his broadcasting booth to wish his listeners a Merry Christmas, filling their homes with an infectious energy. At one point while on air, he even mentioned how he had three guests from Canada joining him for Christmas and wished everyone in Canada ‘Feliz Navidad de los amigos en Honduras’ (Merry Christmas from your friends in Honduras). Meanwhile, Christian spread pine needles all over the floor as is the festive tradition here in Honduras and his mother Carmen fanned the charcoal barbecue to prepare for lunch. As Carmen carefully turned the kabobs, Miguel explained that they only have beef on special occasions like Christmas. We enjoyed the fresh pico de gallo, beans and toasted tortilla and there was not a morsel left on anyone’s plate. We contrasted this experience with our celebratory meals back home where meat is often taken for granted and heaps of food are tossed into the garbage.
Several friends popped in to say hi and each one was served the same plate of food. Not a single soul could speak English so we had to rely on our limited Spanish. I am still amazed at how we can get by in Spanish and extract enough information to have a meaningful conversation. Miguel and Carmen dream of opening a Honduran restaurant in Canada to provide a better opportunity for their son, and they are heavily involved in their Catholic church to which we were formally invited to attend Christmas mass. Some nearby kids let off a pile of sonic boom fire crackers which made you cry, but when those stopped, you enjoyed playing soccer with Christian and using his toy truck. Your mom and I played Christmas songs on our ukulele and we smiled all the way through our bilingual caroling. As we said our goodbyes, they invited us to return on the 27th for Christian’s 7th birthday party but sadly, we already booked our bus tickets to the coast for boxing day. The first pickup we thumbed screeched to a stop and we recalled our serendipitous afternoon all the way down the mountain and how it fit perfectly with our preferences to show and receive love – the hugs goodbye (touch), the invitation for an enjoyable meal (service), and the uninterrupted time (quality time).
Asher, being Christmas eve, we decided to splurge a little, and so we treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the British Colonial House because they have a reputation for nailing the curry. We ordered a red Thai curry and a coconut peanut sauté which both came with a good helping of fresh vegetable el dente and tofu. Both were a tad spicy so we were very surprised to see just how much you enjoyed it. You could not get enough. Before you even swallowed your first bite, you were requesting more and we realized we needed to track down some spices so we can add to our rather bland travel diet. The sun set while American big band music played from speakers and in the glow of the red and green fluorescent bulbs, we recalled Christmases past and expressed our gratitude for the opportunity to spend such quality time together as a family.
You did not fuss for even a second after our family shower, and then we made some brief international calls to family back home before taking time to cuddle as a family, knowing that we would soon be awoken by another Latin American Christmas tradition – fireworks. Loud pops have been going off randomly for the past two weeks but at midnight, which marks the day of Jesus’ birth, the entire town released anything packed with gunpowder and the roar of celebration was deafening. Sonic booms could be felt in our cores and shook the entire concrete building while setting off every car alarm in the town. While most places back home were silently anticipating the arrival of Santa, Latin America was making sure no one forgot why we celebrate December 25th. Asher, physical touch is currently your number one way to receive love and after a short nurse and cuddle, you fell right back to sleep. Though we could not spend your first Christmas with family back home, we knew that by providing you these four months of quality time on the road, you would understand just how much we love you.