Cratch – a long open trough or rack used for holding food for farm animals out of doors; a rack or open framework for holding fodder for livestock; a manger; the star-cluster known as Præsepe (the Manger) in the constellation Cancer; he vertical planks at the forward end of the hold of a traditional English narrowboat which constrain the cargo and support the top plank or walkway.
If you had the power to give the people you love anything at all for Christmas, what would you choose?
Great wealth and the choices it enables would be very tempting.
But if I could give absolutely anything, I hope I would have the wisdom to look beyond material presents to choose the gifts that money can’t buy, and which need neither bright wrappings nor fancy ribbons to make them special.
The first gift I’d give would be the strength and courage which enables us to find a silver lining in the darkest of clouds, to regard the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, to believe that the bad times will pass and that the good will get better.
With this would go the Pollyanna factor – the propensity to look towards a bright morning in the middle of the darkest night, to seek the first glimmerings of a rainbow while the storm is still raging, to spot the gold where others might see only dross and to find something positive not just in spire of but also because of the negatives.
This would be my first gift – that of hope.
Then would come the gift of lightness of spirit that reflects gladness and delight, a wholehearted pleasure in life and in living.
People with this gift know laughter is the only cure for grief.
They have an inner glow and they also have a depth of vision which enables them to uncover the extraordinary no matter how deeply it is buried under the ordinary,
The appreciate the greatness in small things and celebrate it.
This is what give a light in the eye and a song in the heart – it is the gift of joy.
The third gift would have to start with the tools people require to get on with themselves and each other; the ability to listen carefully, think critically and speak clearly – and in that order.
These are the basic communication skills which enable us to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings, and express our own.
Add to those tolerance, flexibility, an openness to other points of view, as well as the willingness to seek consensus when differences occur and to accept compromise when consensus is impossible.
If we mastered these as individuals it would flow on to better relationships in and between families, communities and countries.
It is the gift of peace.
The fourth gift is the biggest of all.
To work properly and be felt deeply it needs hope, joy and peace but is much greater than all of these.
It requires selflessness and sacrifice, humility and humour; the willingness to put others first, to laugh with them and at yourself.
Paradoxically, the more you seek it the less likely you are to find it and those who have the most of it are the ones who give the most to others.
It is the most powerful emotion of all, the one that motivates parents and inspires poets.
It is love.
Yes, these are the four things I would leave under the Christmas tree for my nearest and dearest if it was in my power to give them absolutely anything at all – hope, joy, peace and love.
There is a familiar ring to that and I have a funny feeling I am not the first to have thought of giving these gifts.