It should be a time of joy but the sad reality for many families is that Christmas is a time of stress and hardship. For those struggling financially – and there are many in our region – the pressure to meet expectations of gifts and lavish meals only adds to the stress.
The launch last week of the Mayor’s Giving Box is one way we can do our best to ensure fewer children miss out on receiving a gift on December 25.
Research commissioned by The Salvation Army last year revealed many Australian families do it tough at Christmas. A staggering half a million Aussie children under the age of 10 faced the prospect of not receiving a single gift on Christmas Day.
There is nothing to suggest that heartbreaking statistic will be any different this year.
It’s a particularly difficult time for parents, who do not want to see their children go without while their peers delight in the gifts left under the tree.
Christmas can really bring into sharp focus the yawning gulf between those with plenty and those without.
Many families will land themselves in additional financial stress because they have spent up on gifts they simply cannot afford.
Traditionally, January is the busiest time for financial counsellors, called upon to help sort out the mess of debt Christmas has created.
So the simple act of buying an extra gift with a type of child in mind and dropping it in the Mayor’s Giving Box has the potential to make someone’s Christmas Day.
It can also make you feel better. There’s nothing quite like a random act of kindness to cheer the soul.
Of course, there are other ways to spread the Christmas spirit that don’t involve gifts.
Reaching out to the lonely is one of them. For many people Christmas only highlights their sense of isolation. If you can reach out to someone you know – an elderly neighbour, for instance – and share some time with them, you might make all the difference.
A cup of tea, a chat, perhaps even an invitation to Christmas drinks can help someone feel they are part of a neighbourhood.
Christmas should be about fellowship, not just consumption.
As Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley said when launching the Giving Box, it is a great time to reflect on how fortunate we are.
It is also a time of giving and sharing that good fortune with others.