Candle light dances and flirts on the wall, picking up the shimmer of a bauble, the glitter of the star that crowns the tree. The fire is crackling in the hearth and the speakers are singing out ‘joy and good will to all’ as you snuggle deeper in the hug of your arm chair or loved one.
A metal door slams, the light flickers with headache inducing regularity as a lady passes by the door with a smile of grim determination. The bed creaks and feels lumpier than ever as the TV blares, trying to cover the noise in her head and the ache of missing those people she loves - their pictures peeling off the wall where the tape has run its course and is finally giving up.
She stares at the door, holding her letter, fairy lights flashing: waiting. She was allowed to buy the bright pink, glitter lights this year – she doesn’t know why but granny said it was okay. She stares at the door. She can hear her brother screaming in the cot but no one’s going to him. She stands up to go to him, drops the letter. Father Christmas has let her down - mum’s not coming.
This year the will be more than 4000 women sitting in their prison cells on Christmas Eve 2017.
This year thousands of families will be missing a mum, a daughter, a friend, a partner, a wife.
It’s so easy for us to become wrapped up in ourselves and our families at Christmas. To become insular with our love and give only to those who are near and who love us. I think our challenge should be to change this. To love and care for all - no matter their history - because that is the only way that we can change the norm. That is the only way that actual, tangible, good progress will happen. That is when patterns shift, ruts become freedom and behaviours and attitudes alter.
So let’s speak and act out a new kind of love.
One that considers those who are finding this time of year an even deeper struggle than normal.
One that gives extravagantly to food banks, homeless shelters and trusted charities.
One that stops and talks and gives hot food or drinks to the shivering person on the corner or the pays for the coffee of the person behind in the queue.
One that remembers that for some people ‘family’ and ‘home’ have very negative connotations.
One with a whole new gratefulness to the people we do have and love, the tree we can afford and the food we will eat.
One that is prepared to open the door wider, to change the meaning of the word ‘home’ and to welcome those who feel unwanted or alone.
One that doesn’t get self-righteous or judgmental when we read in tabloids that prisoners might get an extra serving of stodgy pudding or a chocolate bar on Christmas Day.
One that considers the parentless children; the mother without her baby; the families who are motherless, sisterless, daughterless, lifeless this Christmas because of that gaping hole. The guardians, grandparents, dad’s, siblings and foster parents who have to explain once again why mum isn’t there ‘but she does still love you.’ The daughter sitting on the step: waiting for her life to become whole once again.
We never know who’s Christmas we might be making that tiny bit better, that slight bit more bearable, bringing a stronger, warmer light of love and a shift from ‘me and mine’ to ‘us and them.’
Kahaila-Reflex Community Support Worker