“Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled …”
’Tis the lovely choral sounds of Christmas in the Cayman Islands! …
It is with pleasure that I bring seasons greetings from myself, my wife Kerry and our family, also from all of my colleagues. I take this opportunity to share a few Christmas thoughts with all of our citizens and all of our visitors in these beloved Cayman Islands.
I love to sit and meet with older people and their families, especially at this time of year, and hear the motivating and uplifting stories of life in early Cayman – as well as to share in their present celebrations of new births, and other personal and professional achievements over the past year.
This always takes me back to early Cayman, and our homesteads where the women and families worked hard to grow produce and raise families; even as the men harvested the regional waters for turtles and other of nature’s bounties, or sailed in the global fleets of commercial merchant mariners helping our islands to develop and at the same time assisting with the development of the economies of other countries.
In those early years all we had to our names was grit, guts and gumption, that took us through the rough times. Most of the early men, upon reaching their teens, went off to sea; some staying away for months or years on end, all to build this, our island home!
And, at Christmas, faithfully returned home with gifts of apples, a few candies, and perhaps a few bolts of sewing material, or orders of National Bellas Hess clothes.
This is the first Christmas without my mother and my aunt who went on at the age of 102. Like most families of years gone, my own mother served as de facto head of our family home, and she made sure we were provided for with the best resources she could muster … especially at Christmas. These are precious early memories indeed!
Today, the comparisons are stark between the Christmases of my childhood, when I would be lucky to get a new pair of pants, which had to last the entire year. Indeed, I remember taking off my shoes, when I had a pair, and walking home from Sunday school on the rough dirt roads on my bare feet, so that my shoes would not get worn out or too scuffed.
Over the ensuing years, the Cayman Islands, and mankind have advanced by leaps and bounds. I will not go into history lessons; suffice to say that, in this lifetime, our own Cayman Islands have also advanced in so many ways.
Just days ago, as I sat and pondered about this blessed season, I thought: “What is a Christmas message in this day and age?” Of course, it is not a childish Santa message, filled with empty promises.
Neither is it a time to examine differences or point fingers. Instead, Christmas, first and foremost, is a Season of Thanks, namely of the birth of Jesus Christ, a divine example on earth, and provider of a heavenly aspiration for our souls.
So then, the Christmas message must remain, in baby Jesus’ example, a time when we exercise peace and good will towards all people.
In doing this, our virtues must be maintained and refreshed, including those of truth, equity and fairness in how we treat our family members, employees, clients and friends.
In other words, “do good, maintain a good conscience, and good will follow you!”
In so doing, the people of these islands also preserve our rights to our traditional way of life, which is built upon good moral values.
With God’s Grace, we have so much of which to be proud:
Within my generation, by foresight and perspiration, our fishermen devised a Stingray City, our developers envisioned guests coming to hotels and condos, and our world-wise men created air and sea ports to welcome the world.
In so doing, we have turned our sandy shores into an unprecedented tourism attraction; a world-class service that is now the envy of the region – and of the world.
Simultaneously, we capitalized on our honesty and knowledge of how to stretch and save a “shilling,” converting these into the foundation of our financial services industry.
The original offshore banking services of the 1960s and 70s have since evolved into diverse areas – from mutual funds and global shipping registration, to captive insurance and top-notch legal and corporate services.
It is said that high achievers, such as top athletes, scientists and educators, are often referred to as being made of “The Good Stuff.”
While we were, and are, blessed to have people made of this same cosmic stuff, we maintain that this comes about only as a result of God’s inspiration; and His granting to us of health, knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
But, as we prepare to finish a very eventful year, we must be aware of the reality of heightened challenges, from juvenile education and behavior, to ensuring that Cayman maintains, and grows, its share of the commercial markets. There are significant challenges everywhere – in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities.
In speaking this, I am not speaking of diminished expectations – but quite to the contrary!
I foresee nothing but the best, upward movement of our people and our stakeholders, as long as we do not stray from the tried-and-tested formula.
After all, even as the first biblical account of the nativity is found in Saint Matthew, the author entreats us to be “harmless and peaceful as doves,” but in the same book, he says that we must also remain “wise and diligent.”
Today, not only do our promising university graduates return home to begin their careers, and forward our nation-building aspirations; the rest of the world is also beating a path to our shores.
Yes, we must proudly maintain memory of the fact of how we did it; but as we go to our gatherings and celebrations this month, do not allow the glamorous ball gowns, well cooked meals and lavish lifestyles we see, especially at Christmas time, cloud our vision. Our “National Song” written by a Caymanian Lady Leila Ross-Shier – and which I was proud to put into law – says it best for me.
About our islands this time of the year it says “And when comes on the season of Peace, Goodwill Toward Men; ’tis then I love you best of all Beloved Isles Cayman.”
So, while appreciating the memories of “Christmases Past”, I implore us all to remain equally focused on these realities.
Build “Christmases Present” of love and sharing; but also continue to unite and work to ensure that the “Christmases Future” are hopeful and brighter for our children and grandchildren.
I wish you all a time of reflection, reconnection and rejuvenation, and a blessed and safe Season of Goodwill.
“And when comes on the season of Peace, Goodwill Toward Men; ’tis then I love you best of all — Beloved Isles Cayman.”
God Bless you and your families wherever they may be.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush