Go On, I Dare You, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
I imagine that in your household, Christmas preparations are gathering pace, the tree may already be up, lights shining brightly in a spruced-up salute to the cost of energy and Christmas Day lunch is no doubt being planned — with all the trimmings of course. And why not?
But that image isn’t being repeated in many homes and (sad to say) shelters up and down the country. I would venture that the unfortunate reality is that most, if not all of you reading this, are highly unlikely to be affected by the issues it raises.
Because it is a sad truth that for every one of you who kindly take the time to, there will be many, many more who will be directly affected this Christmas by the subject it discusses.
And personally, I feel profoundly sad about that. Let me explain.
As I’m sure you may know, the Trussell Trust run food banks across the country. But did you know that, according to Statista, the number of people receiving three days’ worth of emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in the UK rose from 25,000 in 2009 to over two million in 2021.
In the US the figure is a little higher. In fact, a lot higher. Over there an estimated one in seven people use a food bank, and that amounts to an eye-watering 43 million.
Thankfully, the supermarkets have been running food bank collections and donating surplus food for many years now, but it’s largely been on the periphery. But what if we all had to donate at least one food item on the way out?
Sounds rather radical doesn’t it? And of course, it would be impossible to police, however, I would suggest that the majority of us would happily donate. So, a plea to Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose et al, don’t hide your food bank collections under a bushel, move them front and centre, if only at this time of year.
Every child should open a present on Christmas Day
But there’s something else which perhaps, for me, has had an even greater and more profound impact.
When we’re young and don’t know any better, let’s be honest, we associate Christmas with receiving. I can still remember the excitement of waking up (very early of course) and rushing downstairs to see the tree and to rip open all my presents on Christmas morning. Looking back, I was fortunate, but of course at the time, I never either realised or gave it a second thought. After all, don’t all children get a Scalextric set for Christmas?
But as we get older, we come to realise that of course, the truth is very different. And when I heard about the Mission Christmas Campaign, it struck a chord. It’s not the first year that Cash for Kids has run this appeal, last year for example, it raised over £21 million and many hundreds of thousands of toys were donated so that under-privileged children could open a present on Christmas day.
For me, the sheer scale and depth of the cost-of-living crisis, together with its close proximity to retail, has amplified things so much more. I imagine that writing and speaking about it for the best part of a year has meant that it’s hard to ignore. And I’m grateful for that. So, in something of a departure, I’m going to make an appeal of my own.
For every one of you who has kindly taken the time to read these retail reflections, please take a moment to think of others and put something in your local supermarket food bank collection or donate a toy at any number of collection points around the country. You’ll help a family or a child go some way to enjoying Christmas the way many of us are fortunate to be able to.
Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, that feels good.