Christmas, community, Mental Health, resilience

Tidings of Comfort and Joy?

Community Coach Blog, Dan Rous, 16 December 2021

I love Christmas. But not everyone does. Infact, a YouGov survey in 2019 revealed that 1 in 7 people don’t like Christmas. And to be honest, I’ve probably had a love/hate relationship with it at different times in my life too.

I spent most of my life as part of the Salvation Army, including playing in the band. This of course meant copious amounts of playing of Christmas Carols on cold street corners or occasionally we got to go indoors. It was always fun at the start of the month but slowly waned as the month went on! One highlight back home in Canterbury though was the Christmas Eve Community Carol Singing in the town centre which, on a good night, would have around 5000 people in attendance. However I’d felt over the rest of the month, I always got lifted by this event. A little part of me still misses this workload – but I soon get over it!

In later life, I was running a Furniture ReUse Project linked to a Homeless Resettlement Unit. It was my privilege to give the team a couple of weeks off at Christmas. However, it became clear that whilst this seemed a great gesture, it was not well received. This project was a lifeline for my team and what I was sending them off to was usually 2 weeks of solitude. I felt bad that it never crossed my mind. So before long, I organised that if they wanted, they could go into the warehouse and do some cleaning and basic maintenance work. Christmas had become a negative time for them – reminding them often of what they had lost in their lives. They needed to keep busy and not be left to wallow in their own company.

During this time, my view of Christmas changed considerably. While understanding more about the team I was supporting, I also got married and became a dad. I had two opposite extremes of the season. Avoiding loneliness versus childhood amazement.

So, to quote from the carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, do you experience “tidings of comfort and joy” this Christmastime? Or do you take more inspiration from Charles Dickens’ creation of Ebeneezer Scrooge with a touch of Bah Humbug? Or maybe you’re just wavering somewhere in the middle. Wherever you are, it’s important to recognise that not everyone is in the same place as you.

I’ve mentioned Camerados in this blog before and for this week’s blog, I’m actually handing the rest of the space over to them. Their CEO Maff Potts, a former colleague of mine in Salvation Army homelessness work, has just written a fantastic blog entitled (in his usual mildly eccentric way) “Why we all need to be a little alien this Christmas”. Maff describes his “complicated relationship with Christmas”. He says “it’s a time of year when I remember witnessing the very best feeling of belonging – and yet all the noise, the Christmas fanfare everywhere you look, is rarely about that magic.” The blog is a fantastic read that focuses on the pressures on all our Mental Health this Christmas time and how we can get through it together by simply being more human. Please take the time to read what Maff has to say – I promise you won’t regret it. You can get to his blog by clicking on the image below.

Until next time…..

Dan Rous
Community Coach
07444 873151
communitycoach@tamfourhilltro.co.uk

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