Every year around this time I’m reminded of a little film I made before I moved to London about two families’ experiences of Christmas. From a technical point of view it’s pretty wick with one particular toe-curling scene shot entirely out of focus – the joys of filming and interviewing as a one woman band. Nonetheless the stories shone through and I felt quite privileged both families shared their stories with me.
I met Kathy properly when I left university and moved back home. We’d seen each other on the number 5 bus from Belfast to Millisle when we were both at school, (so she tells me), but had never spoken.
The week before I had had an interview for a company that the recruitment agency told me ‘make tubes for the inside of sunbeds’. At the time I was, for shame, partial to a few minutes of skin crisping each week so I felt I was already a strong candidate. The naïveté of youth! It turned out the company in question made solar vacuum tubes to stick on your roof and convert the sun’s rays into hot water for your home. Luckily my degree saved my blushes and I got the job working in the same office as Kathy the following week.
Fast forward more years than I care to count and times had changed. We were both coming to the end of a tough year. I had left my job to chase a dream I had no clue how to find my way to and had been flailing about in unemployment for half a year. Kathy had been balancing the excitement of being pregnant with her first child with her brother’s leukaemia diagnosis and subsequent treatment. We met up to take stock and reminisce of Christmasses past but also to look to the future and what might lie in store.
I hadn’t met the King family before I interviewed them. The ‘suspended coffee’ movement had just started to gain traction in Ireland and I had heard about a church-run coffee shop in Belfast’s university area that was leading the charge in spreading kindness and coffee where it was needed most.
The more I learned about Common Grounds the more I wanted to find out about them. They planned to host a free dinner on Christmas Day for anyone who didn’t have a particular place to be. The Kings were rota-d to cook that year’s feast and I called up on Christmas Eve to find out what it was like to cook 7 turkeys ahead of time.
What struck me about both of the families I interviewed was a great capacity to love and to hope, in spite of not knowing what lay ahead. As the saying goes, kindness costs nothing but a smile and you never know whose day you might make in doing so.
Enjoy the film and I’ll see you again tomorrow.
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