A homeless man once told me the brightest part of his day wasn’t hearing a coin drop in his paper cup, but the kind voice of a passer-by who asked the simple question ‘how are you today’.
Without a home, with little comfort, or food, it is loneliness that hit him the hardest, and it’s a simple word of kindness from another person that has the power to make all the difference to his day.
He is not alone – loneliness is an epidemic reverberating through our communities, our workplaces, and our schools. As part of the NHS Reach Out campaign, one Drakiesprimary school pupil described loneliness as ‘when you feel like no one in the world cares for you’. A heart-breaking thought especially when Age UK estimates that 873,000 people will have little or no contact with others on Christmas Day.
So as you get ready for the festivities – doing that last minute dash to get all your bits and bobs, remember to offer a word of kindness to someone who you might not have otherwise noticed.
You might just be the only person they speak to that day.
And if you are feeling lonely, please have the courage to reach out to others, because there is kindness in abundance never far from your door.
Indeed, only last week I met with the new Provost of Inverness Cathedral, Reverant Sarah Murray, along with her friendly dog Max to talk about the incredible outreach work she and a great many volunteers are doing. One of their projects, working with MFR Cash for Kids, is to provide families in need with winter coats. She told me about the sheer joy on the faces of young children when presented with a new warm coat to face the snowy day.
The church has also extended an open invitation to all to join them for traditional Christmas Lunch at the Old Boys School by the Cathedral from 12 noon on Christmas day. Whatever your age, on your own, or with a family – everyone is welcome.
Thousands of our local children will wake up to a gift on Christmas day because of the work of MFR Cash for Kids and the generosity of so many of you.
The Highland Homeless Trust will offer comfort and provide shelter for folk who find themselves without a place to sleep.
Our local foodbanks will offer hundreds of parcels to families who might otherwise not have eaten, and volunteers at Mikey’s line and the Samaritans will be a friendly voice at the end of a phone, for those in desperate need of a listening ear.
Unfortunately, work for these charities and their volunteers doesn’t start with the festive season, their 2018 will start as 2017 finished – working away supporting those who need a helping hand.
I am incredibly proud of the network of kindness in our communities, and it serves as a constant reminder to me that politics has the power to make a real difference.
Hence why I too, will start 2018 as I intend to finish 2017 – working for a better lot for those who need a helping hand.
So on this, my last column of this year, I’d like finish by wishing you and yours well for the festive season and the New Year. It is a time of year to hold your loved ones close, be thankful for what we have, and most importantly to stand with those who are less fortunate that ourselves.