Ah Christmas! A time to welcome all the excesses of the season with open, slightly flabby arms and settle into a uniform of elasticated waists while proffering friends, loved ones and sworn enemies ‘just one more mince pie’. While it’s a wonderful time for families to come together it’s not without pressure and it can be easy to feel torn between wanting to splash out and not being in the position to do so financially without getting into debt. It’s also a time when hundreds of charity letters come through the letterbox, each cause every bit as deserving as the last but it’s not always possible to support them all financially at this time of year.
There are still ways we can celebrate and share the joy without breaking the bank. Here are just a few ideas I’ve come across
* Support your local food bank
The Trussell Trust is an organisation which operates throughout the UK though I’m sure there are equivalents all over the world. Why not have a hunt through your cupboards and donate any cans of soup or vegetables to your local food bank. We all have a few tins lurking at the back of the cupboard that seemed like a good idea at the time – (tinned ratatouille anyone?) – but we’ve never quite got around to eating. Our local food bank is currently on the lookout for cereals, pasta, tins of fruit, veg, soup – basically anything that’s non-perishable that could make the next few days a little less stressful for people in need. If you’re in the UK click here to find your nearest food bank.
* Get knitting and help older people combat the cold
It’s no secret that fuel companies do very well out of the cold weather that Christmas ushers in but older people are especially vulnerable at this time of year. With pensions only stretching so far Winter is a potentially dangerous time for older people in the community. Age UK Lambeth – a London-based branch of the nationwide charity which supports and empowers older people – is encouraging nimble-fingered folks to Get Their Knit On by knitting squares which will be sewn together and made into blankets which the organisation will distribute to people who need them in the New Year. The charity has partnered with the Southbank Centre so if you’re local to London you can pop in and knit in a social setting on a couple of dates. If you’re a little further afield but would still like to help you can knit a square or two and send them in to:
Louisa Pestell, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX, UK
* Support your local animal shelter by clearing out your closet
Santa’s little helper, Bob, is a fan of this idea
Christmas is one of the busiest times for animal shelters with the novelty of receiving a puppy for Christmas wearing off when new owners realise that their gift of choice while amazing is a LOT of hard work. Animal shelters and rescue centres are always crying out for bedding to make the animals feel comfortable at what can be a scary time for furbabies. I don’t think the condition is all that important so if you have some old blankets that have acquired a few holes over the years or bedding that’s now a bit worn or out of fashion shelters will make great use of these and you can free up some storage space at the same time.
* Lend a hand at a free Christmas dinner
Last year I made a wee film featuring a coffee shop called Common Grounds Cafe who host an annual free Christmas dinner for anyone who would otherwise be alone on December 25th. Common Grounds is an amazing place that encapsulates the true spirit of the festive season and while they have sufficient volunteers to man the turkey and peel the spuds this year I’m sure there are plenty more of these kinds of events who could do with an extra pair of hands – especially when it comes to washing dishes.
* Call in on a neighbour who lives alone
Loneliness is rife in darker months and the older we get the less mobile we can be making this time of year very isolating for some. If you need a hand whittling down your waistline before squeezing into your New Year’s party outfit consider joining Goodgym which partners runners with coaches – older people in the community. The runners have to call in on their coach once a week and the two motivate each other for the week ahead. A great idea for both mind and body!
So there you have a few ideas that will soothe your soul without breaking the bank. You might just make a friend for life out of a small act of kindness. Is there anything special happening in your community this Christmas? Comment below and share the joy!xx