A wafer for your thoughts

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin
As our beings and doings are more publicly exposed by the speeding social rotations of the world, I find it increasingly hard to be sincere, to hold a conversational opinion that matters without the equivalent of a flippant emoticon at the end of each tentative statement, Liz Breslin writes.

I think I am not alone in this. Students, family, friends - there's some kind of angst that surrounds meaningful personal spoken conversation. Phone talk is just about manageable but leaving a message is fraught with - with what? It can't be the fear or nerves of having ourselves exposed, I mean, look how much we glibly reveal online.

Tone of voice renders the spoken word more personal than the written. Conversing in person, even more so. Body language to complete the communication picture.

One of the traditions of Polish Christmas, Wigilia (vigeeleeyah, with an emphasis on the "gee'') is exchanging bread wafers and meaningful words. Wigilia is a celebration held on Christmas Eve and this give-and-take starts off the evening.

Through my youth, this meant reluctantly receiving an oblong piece of decorated oplatek communion wafer and walking it around a roomful of older relatives.

Breaking off a piece of their wafer, putting it under your tongue or in your cheek to dissolve, squirming in embarrassment as the aforementioned older rellies laid bare their hopes to you for school, for church, for your good, soulful life.

Trying not to look in their eyes while they take a piece of your wafer and look at you expectantly. Getting round to mumbling something lame about wishing them a happy time and hoping their job will be nice next year and whatever. (Oh. So maybe communication hasn't actually regressed or progressed that much, considering.)

Traditions die hard, especially transplanted and mutated, and these days it's me who sets the Wigilia scene at home to an intergenerational chorus of eye-rolling do-we-have-to?

Yes, yes we do. And just to practise, here's a kind of early, virtual Wigilia. Some things that matter that I'd like to say to people who matter over the breaking of bread.

• To all the sports mums who sit on the side of the pool or the edge of the ring, remember that you, too, deserve to succeed.

• To an Israeli guy called Joe who gave up his plane seat so I could be on time for a magic few days with my brother, I hope your generosity was repaid in buckets of first-class Champagne.

• To anyone who believes that "the economy'' is an actual thing, see how your world-view changes if you replace it with any of the following: "the country'', "the planet'', "the people I love and the ground I walk on''. For 2016, I might live in a story-based economy. Just saying.

• To my editor for this column, it is very awesome to work for you. Long may your knowledge and humour continue, on everything from Lego to soft-drink slogans and in between.

And, more generally, to the fine folk of the ODT, I love how your news and views are both local and independent.

• To the artisans who continue to make sausages and cured meats in the face of being called carcinogen breeders, thank you. Bacon often makes everything better (and I mean that actually, literally and sincerely; I am not steering off course into flippancy here) and there's enough guilt in the world already over food. And to the dairy people who do treat their animals fairly, I wish someone would take out an overseas advert about you. I know that good news is no news, but still.

• To Donald Trump (and other haters). Be kind. It's that simple. And if you can't be kind, be quiet. Please.

At Wigilia celebrations, another tradition is to keep an empty seat for an unexpected guest, because it's important to have an open heart and a hospitable home.

I think the Catholic take on that is you never know when Jesus might turn up again, hungry for a vegetarian feed, which is almost as terrifying a thought as having a big red man come and fossick around in your bedroom while you're sleeping.

In my work with student volunteers in the Upper Clutha, in the supermarket, at the bank, everywhere, in fact, I am lucky enough to meet many people who demonstrate that open hospitality. Who exchange smiles, encouragement, proper conversations, stories that matter.

Thank you all. I hope that I can take that energy forward, to remember to listen, to help, to support.

And I guess that is the beauty of a Wigilia celebration, that, however squirmingly, it gives us the opportunity to honour, to engage, to properly say, before we dive back into routines, festivities and [insert line of smiley Christmas emoticons here]. 

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