Gazette December 2017:
There’s a lot of nonsense spoken about the “spirit of Christmas” and very often the season is seen as an excuse for massive self-indulgence and the most conspicuous consumption. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what most of us are actually celebrating when we’re blinded by the extravagant window displays in the shops, deafened by the music and stunned by the avalanche of advertisements pouring out of the television.
Fortunately there are other aspects to this wonderful time of the year. Come with me if you will to Greenford Baptist Church for Christmas Day lunch.
For many years now my good friend Tariq Mahmood and I have joined Warren McNeil and David Wise – the Pastors at Greenford Baptist – to help serve lunch to a hall full of people who might otherwise have been home alone.
Tariq and I – the Muslim and the Christian – happily join in with people of all faiths and none in a spirit of fellowship and friendship.
Huge thanks go to Ealing Community Transport and to the volunteers who bring the guests in for lunch and get them home safely afterwards. I know from experience how exhausting this can be but what a sense of achievement suffuses the senses when the washing up is done, the hall cleared and everyone is safely home.
I say “safely home” but there will be some who have no home to go to on Christmas Day and it is here that the Ealing Churches Winter Night Shelters come into their own.
Providing hot meals and warm beds all around the borough this charity is –literally – a life saver. Contact them on 07930 378263 if you’d like to know more or if you need their help,
Like the massively oversubscribed food banks the night shelters are both an example of true compassionate charity and an indictment of a world in which there is an undercurrent of human tragedy below the surface of our selfish society.
I’d suggest that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in until it is a good place for all of us to live in and while this may seem ridiculously unworldly and impracticable I’d also suggest that is an ideal well worth fighting for.
It’s not just the Christmas lunch and the night shelters that allow us a glimpse of what the magic of Christmas can mean. There will be thousands of small acts of kindness from showing gratitude to those who will be working over the holiday to sharing some of your time or your hospitality with those for whom this is a difficult time. There is an essential decency and kindness to be found in people and sometimes we have to look for it but be assured that it is there.
Look past the tat and the tinsel to see something more special and more sustainable. Please take a moment away from the self-gratification to spare a thought for those around you. Not just at Christmas but throughout the year. A better warmer and kinder world is the prize!
Wishing all my friends and constituents in Ealing North the very happiest of Christmases and you all have my very best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year.