“One person can collect a few things. But if you ask another and another, soon there’s a mountain of good will.”
By Carina Bird
Last Christmas Eve, I gave £5 to a big issue seller outside Greenoaks. I have never forgotten the man’s eyes as I handed him the money. They lit up with delicious delight and he cried out ‘Merry Christmas’. Afterwards, I went to Costa where the ‘promotional’ hashtag #merrychristmastome soured the taste of my hot chocolate.
Sometimes it is easy to remain in a bubble of first world problems, throwing up our hands in despair at the wrong gift, size, colour, roast potatoes. At Christmas time we are better at remembering that there are so many people who are worse off than us simply because of where they were born, the environment they were raised in, or just because they need a second chance.
This was proven so strongly to me during our Momentum Halton food bank/local refugee collection back in November. What began as a meagre pile: a few coats, some biscuits, soon spiraled into a huge collection. Two ladies I’d never seen before or since were like the Mary Poppins of Food Bank collections. Like Dickens describing everyone’s entrance to Fezziwig’s ball in ‘A Christmas Carol’, in they kept coming: in came the duvets; in came the blankets; in came the canned food; in came the clothing; in it all came! It was a wonderful demonstration of the power of thinking of others. Their combined effort also demonstrates the power of coming together. One person can collect a few things. But if you ask another and another, soon there’s a mountain of good will. I felt very proud to be part of an organisation promoting that.
But it’s important we don’t stop now Christmas is over. The most moving post I read about homelessness over Christmas was by Andy Gale on Facebook. I’ve never met him but his post reached me somehow: powerful stories spread just as easily as the ridiculous ones. Andy met 19-year-old called CJ and, instead of just giving him money, sat with him and listened to his story. You can read the full story here. Following this, Andy set up a Just Giving account to raise money to help him. It’s currently over £800.
Although spending thirty minutes watching the news might make us feel helpless and powerless, stories like these highlight that we are anything but. With social media, and by engaging in our local communities, there is every chance to shape and benefit other people’s lives. This year, my favourite part of Christmas was attending the Christingle at St Luke’s Church on Christmas Eve. It was so packed they’re planning to do two next year. My family and I sat at the back singing carols together and wishing strangers a Merry Christmas on the way out.
Our goal now should be to keep this community spirit going through the relative grumpiness of January and February and beyond. You can get involved in your local food banks here for Widnes and here for Runcorn. Next time you pass a Big Issue seller, give him or her something to smile about. Regardless of however many companies try to tell us that we’ll be happier if we wear a certain perfume or drive a certain car, Psychologists say altruism is one of the best ways to sustain happiness. #merrychristmastoall