It is a sad but true reality that for many of us, Christmas is the worst time of the year. Standing back from the gleaming lights and inviting reminders to fill up our stockings and make the appropriate Christmas reservations, there are streets full of unhappy, lonely, poor people. But the story I’m about to tell you of one such person, is not going to be sad.
I live in the small town of St Andrews, Scotland where an unfamiliar face is immediately noticed and remembered. One day, we saw a man with two enormous friends; a black Newfoundland and an apricot Mastiff. Striding between these two great creatures the man’s own slight frame seemed touching and curiosity was aroused. We soon learned that his name was John and that he was homeless, sleeping in a tent on the beach.
I’d like to tell you that we all rallied round, chipped in and John was homeless no more. But life doesn’t quite work this way. We came to know his full story gradually, and with time, trust and compassion made their way in. We learned that John had a congenital heart condition that made it difficult for him to find permanent work or indeed employers that were willing to hire him. We also learned that when he lost his job and home due to illness, the council balked at rehousing him with such large dogs. It isn’t that councils are hostile to pets, just that people can be afraid of large animals and the damage they might cause.
So here was John, choosing to live in a tent rather than having to give up his dogs in exchange for a roof over his head. The months went by and soon that gnawing Scottish wind set in: winter was here but John was still on the streets.
Everyone by that point who knew him did what they could to help. From the local barber that set up a support fund, the students that let John live in their backyard and gave him a heater, the coffee shop staff that offered free drinks and meals, to the residents that wrote to Fife Council on John’s behalf. Finally, that familiar iceberg of bureaucratic deferment and human deficiency gave way: John was offered housing and the dogs could come too.
As I said, this is not a sad story — because the ending is what all of us hoped for. But for many others, still out there on the streets, no-one knows how their story will play out. The true soul of Christmas is not in the food, the presents, the smiles and season’s greetings. Christmas is about ordinary people accepting each other (warts, tantrums and all) and seeing when someone cannot help themselves.
Merry Christmas to all our readers!
Diana Aganey — Managing Editor
And now special messages from the whole Team!
Ralitsa Raleva — Business Development Officer:
Merry Christmas to all our readers and writers! I wish you all a warm and cosy holiday season with lots of happy moments with your family and friends! I can’t wait for Christmas Eve to spend time with my family and to enjoy the cold weather.
Katrina Fairhurst — Communications Officer:
Merry Christmas to all our readers! I am looking forward to spending time with my family this Christmas and annoying everyone with pictures of my dogs dressed as elves on Instagram!
Lucie Spicer — Education Coordinator:
Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and holiday period. It has been an exciting, busy and fun-filled time leading up to Christmas period. I am most looking forward to eating my weight in sweets and spending quality time with the family cat and dog.
Matteo Bergamini — CEO & Founder:
As an atheist, Christmas is always a bit of an odd time. How do I balance my dislike of organised religion with the crazy euphoria of the lights, and the feeling you get when you manage to ram a tree – that is clearly too big – into your tiny apartment?
The reality is that despite your belief in Jesus, or any other ‘god’, one thing is undeniable … Christmas brings people together and helps us forget the woes of the year. At least for several blissful weeks, the country goes into collective hibernation. MPs are going into recess, and I imagine Brexiteers and Remainers coming out of their ‘trenches’ and playing football in no man’s land, reminiscent of WW1.
Then there is Santa Claus: the fat old man who joyfully visits houses, giving presents (somehow that’s crazy … a man turning water into wine or feeding 1,000 people on what was effectively a classic two-piece chicken meal is impossible? — anyway …) to good children. This made me think, if I had that childhood innocence back for one night, what would I ask for? For me, if I had the chance, I would ask for Santa to sprinkle us all with dust that makes us all politically literate.
It would ensure the prosperity of our democracy which is currently cracking. Democracy gives us many amazing ways to engage and shape society into what we want. Yet if we don’t know that these ways exist or how to engage with them, it is like they don’t exist. For a lot of people this is their reality. Political Literacy wasn’t taught to them in school, so for them the opportunities present to those in Oxbridge are exclusive to Oxbridge.
Even though no-one is technically stopping them from doing the same as Oxbridge, in fact, their reality does not permit this. Knowledge is power and we have allowed the elite in our country to keep this knowledge to themselves for far too long. So while we wait for Santa to give us a hand, we at Shout Out UK will keep pushing and giving young people a chance to engage in our democracy.