2015 has been a strange and in many ways, terrifying year. The Medusa of terrorism became a dreaded and unpredictable enemy. The Euro almost succumbed to racketeering and defaulting on Mickey Mouse loans (condoned at the highest level) and as it teetered on the edge, hundreds of thousands were forced into a poverty they had never imagined. Barbaric killing and destruction wrecked ancient civilsations probably for good.The world appeared at times to be slowly falling apart and for many, daily life became a nightmare of chaos and worry. In several countries today people are being displaced or impoverished by someone else's decision or recklessness.
This Christmas my desire to celebrate is muted. I have very little need for material possessions and hardly wish to buy anything; part of getting older is not feeling compelled to keep accumulating and to ask "Do I need it?". I am also haunted by the image of the starving, displaced refugee or the victims of pointless wars, whose homes, livelihoods and possessions have been reduced to rubble. There are economic casualties as well- the Greeks for example- and worst of all there are also too many in this life who have nothing. Not one possession even that belongs to them.. In the West our lives are filled with things: to do, possessions, mementos, trinkets, bric-à-brac, the latest fashion etc. but for some, a plastic bag to wrap only a faded memory is a great luxury.
Now that Christmas is upon us with all it's excessive, Bacchanalian over-indulgence, it is necessary to remember what this time will mean for those who have nothing. Victims of war or economic deprivation will have very little to celebrate. When they wake up on Christmas Day, they will still be covered in the grime of poverty and exclusion.. As we settle down to our Christmas feast, those who are less fortunate will be staring probably at an empty plate. Or a family of six may have to share a single egg. The homeless or displaced, those with literally nowhere to call home, will find their annihilation all the more heart-breaking. In the UK, homelessness has risen by an average of 6% per year since the financial crisis of 2008. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't just alcoholics or drug users who end up becoming homeless but people who lose their jobs and can no longer pay their rent or mortgage. In other words, people like you and me.
I knew a former MD of his own company who was forced to close his business but then found it hard to ever get a job paying the equivalent of what he used to earn. At times he stopped looking for work altogether and was often broke. Lucky for him, his father would hand out the cash whenever he needed it. To this day, the gentleman in question now in his forties, relies on financial help from his parents who instead of judging him, support him because they love him. Not everyone is so blessed. We all know someone, for example, who has no family. No mother or father or brother or sister. The elderly especially, fall into this category of lonely souls.
Until one has experienced deprivation and hardship, it is too difficult to understand what others have gone through in their lives.. We would perhaps have a different attitude to our own baseless worries if we were fleeing persecution or if we had no money, friends or the support of loved ones.
In my humble opinion, Christmas has turned into a spectacle where we worship the wrong things and create a false impression of who we are and what really matters. The best Christmas is surely the one where our hearts are at peace.
As a family-less person, I have grown used to Christmas on my own. This year I shall do what I normally do on December 25th- go to church, walk my hound across a chilly landscape and give thanks for having everything I need.
Homo, qui in homine calamitoso est misericors, meminit sui. A man who is merciful to a fellow man in calamity, remembers what is due himself.- Roman proverb.