As readers of my blogs know, helping the homeless is one subject I am particularly passionate about, and encouraging and empowering people to do so in the most effective manner is something I try to do.
I have noticed over the years that at Christmas time, along with the message of “peace and goodwill to all men”, that people tend go out of their way to be nice and helpful to those who happen to be less fortunate than themselves, which of course is a good thing, since acts of kindness, random or otherwise, whatever the season is always to be welcomed. Regarding the homeless, and unless it is me, I have noticed that this year, more than in previous years, people who have been offering their services to help out on Christmas day, and I find myself having to respond positively to such offers.
Without wanting to be a party pooper or appearing churlish, I often find myself checking my sense of cynicism that thinks along the lines: “it is all well and good helping out on Christmas day but what about the remaining 364 days in the year when the homeless and other disadvantaged folk will be still be around and still having a variety of needs that need to be met” and while helping others may make us feel good, that shouldn’t be the reason for doing so. I don’t say that of course, and try to suggest ways people might be able to help and share things I know about that are going on where an extra willing pair of hands may be welcomed. If it is not practicable, it occurs to me most of us know of those that may welcome an invite to Christmas dinner at one’s home or might benefit from some other act of kindness, and it doesn’t take much imagination to help.
It happens that for me personally that I am “on duty” this Christmas day. The reason for this is it falls on a Friday and that is the day when I normally manage one of the Church Winter Night Shelters. I don’t feel especially magnanimous, having made sacrifices, as my family aren’t especially Christmasy people and we will probably do something nice together the day before or the day after. We will of course do our utmost to ensure our guests have a “good time”, mindful that for some this is a particularly difficult time of the year.
Ironically, regarding helpers for the evening shift, we are well off this year. But when it comes to overnight sleepers and people coming on for the early morning shift we could do with more help. I mention this to illustrate that one of the problems people like me often have when organizing something to help the homeless is that while, understandably, it is relatively easy to get help when it suits the person who is offering to help to do so, it is often less so when it is not convenient to do so, yet that is when help is most needed.
My point is that while helping the homeless at Christmas or on one’s own terms is not something to be sneezed at, and indeed is to be welcomed, and of course the help we can offer may well depend on our circumstances, but what is needed most is for people to identify the times and situations where help is needed most and that is not necessary forthcoming, and to help on those occasions also.