Christmas. A time to give.
For some, giving at Christmas extends beyond the latest gadget or household appliance. Some people choose to give their time and money at Christmas to help others considered less fortunate. Two 'groups' of people often come to front of mind at this time of year - the homeless and the elderly. The media often push out stories of loneliness, isolation and misfortune in December, inspiring us to give.
Some of the stories that inspired me last month include the story of Jacod Rabi-Laleh aged seven from Maldon, Essex who collected “blankets, hats, and other supplies" for homeless people living in his community. He also raised £235 through a GoFundMe page which will be used to “fund items such as toiletries, tins of food and spoons.” In probably one of the most heart-warming statements a young person could say, Jacob said:
“I would rather have lots of homeless people happy than my own toys”.
Something tells me this kid is going to go far in the world.
On Christmas Day I read how a group of 30 Network Rail volunteers transformed London’s Euston Station into a huge homeless shelter for “Christmas dinner and festive cheer”.The extraordinary effort from this kind hearted bunch of volunteers, who partnered with local homeless charities, managed to serve 200 homeless guests. This gesture was not just about food. It was about showing these people some love and attention, something that is often in short supply. According to Shelter, there are currently over 300,000 people homeless in Britain. The charity received a call for help every 22 seconds over the Christmas period.
Focusing on the elderly, our concerns turn to their comfort and loneliness at this time of year. Take a look at a couple of the adverts that have been released during the festive period over the last few years. November 2015 saw the release of the John Lewis #ManOnTheMoon advert which, through creative imagery of loneliness on another planet, captured the nation’s attention to the growing problem of loneliness in older people.
Fast forward a couple of years, Age UK released “Just Another Day” in 2017. The emotional (and quite frankly tear jerking) advert highlighted a single elderly gentlemen lonely life. The statement Age UK at the end of the video summarises the issue perfectly.
“No one should have no one”
The harsh drop-off
I am sure you will agree these issues need year-round attention but it does appear to be the case that certain issues resonate only at certain times of the year. How often do you see adverts for loneliness and homelessness in August? Do we only sympathise and give our time and money to these issues in the winter months? January becomes a sort of ‘reluctance month’ for these type of issues. We take part in Dry January to give our livers a rest from the over-drinking in December. Gym memberships go through the roof to get our bodies back in shape after the over-eating. The headlines turn back to their normal regime and we lose track of each other and start focusing on ourselves again.
Of course I could be completely wrong in my observations, and you could quite rightly disagree with my opinions, however ask yourself, how often do you read/hear feel-good stories about everyday people helping the homeless and elderly in any other month but December? There might be the odd one here and there, but that's about it. November and December shouldn’t be the only months we pull together and help (and celebrate the help) people who need it.
Loneliness and homelessness is not just an issue at Christmas. Every day, week and month is an opportunity to be kind.