Ok well, here goes - no matter how hard we try and put it off - it’s here! Christmas has arrived in all its fabulous sparkly glory. Depending on your point of view, it could hugely cheer us all up and provide some yearned for distraction after a difficult year, or for some it’s arrival will be met with a heavy heart reminding us of loved ones lost or the unwelcome focus of how lonely life can be when you’re on your own.
As a personal security junkie, at this time of year I would normally be reminding everyone of the dangers of keeping those precious Christmas gifts safe and secure in your home, warning everyone to be wary of fake websites trying to con you out of your hard earned cash, or staying safe when out on the town celebrating the Christmas Season with friends - although you’ll be glad to hear that that Christmas tipple is most definitely allowed, just make sure you look after each other and get home safely. Please. But I’d like to hope that we’re all heeding those warnings and looking after our homes, loved ones and property like the precious gems that they are. Don’t worry I’ll be back on the case soon enough.
So this festive season I’m focusing my attention outside of the home, and encouraging everyone to look beyond their front doorsteps - once the front door and windows are secured obviously.
I am studying at the moment and recently after my usual class, one of my fellow students stood up and asked if any of us had any spare warm clothes we’d be willing to donate to a homeless charity that he worked for over Christmas. To be honest I didn’t think too much about it, not believing I had very much to donate, but promised I would look. A few days later I found an old fleece in my sons wardrobe that he hadn’t warn for several years and, reminded of my colleagues request, put it in a sack. Spurred on I searched through the rest of the house and miraculously ended up with 2 huge black sacks full of unwanted jumpers, scarves, gloves, hats and coats most of which were rarely if ever used.
As I reviewed and carefully folded the clothes I started to imagine who could wear these items. I pictured a homeless teenager in a shop doorway wearing the fleece and maybe the unworn warm woollen gloves I’d found, and suddenly it became all too real. It’s many years since I patrolled the streets of London as a uniformed officer, and for a while I was transported back to those days. I was always heartbroken to see people down on their luck or struggling with drink or drugs, unable to get themselves back on track. Night duty I’d see them huddled in doorways or under bridges, parks and bus shelters, sleeping under make shift cardboard tents, sometimes I’d find a hostel for them but places were limited and it was always difficult to find even basic support available.
It’s hard to believe that homelessness is still such a problem in the 21st Century but they are not the only ones struggling this Christmas.
Having lost my Mother a few weeks ago, this year for me will be dominated by an empty chair at our Christmas table and a head full of memories of Christmases past. Sadly this will be the case in many homes. I am lucky, I have family and friends to help me through but many, particularly elderly people, won’t be so lucky and will be spending their first Christmas completely alone.
So my request this month is to ask you to find time to make just one gesture this Christmas (more if you want to obviously), to someone alone. Pick up the phone and call someone you know who is on their own on Christmas Day, the sound of a friendly voice just asking how you are and offering seasons greetings can provide quite a boost. Knock on the door of a neighbour who is alone and donate half an hour of your time for a cup of tea with them. If you can spare the time to go to a homeless shelter and help out for a few hours over the Christmas holiday - wonderful, but even the donation of a warm coat, jumper or scarf could really help.
Lives can often change on a sixpence, one minute you have a job, a home, family and friends, but in these tumultuous times these blessings can slip through your fingers far too easily and quickly. And it can happen to any of us.
I wish everyone a wonderful peaceful Christmas holiday and a successful and safe New Year. If we can look after each other, even if it’s just one act of random kindness, whatever life throws at us will be that much easier to deal with.