Stessed out? There’s just no excuse

IN AMONGST the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, this week I had a very grounding experience at North Herts Sanctuary in Hitchin. It is a cliché and it probably sounds trite, but it really does knock you for six to realise that there are people

IN AMONGST the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, this week I had a very grounding experience at North Herts Sanctuary in Hitchin.

It is a cliché and it probably sounds trite, but it really does knock you for six to realise that there are people who quite literally have nothing, not even a place to stay.

It is incredibly humbling and a real wake-up call that shows you how self indulgent it is to get stressed out this time of year about what to buy your second cousin twice removed and how you're going to fit in all the socialising the season seems to require.

There are people who quite simply have far bigger fish to fry.


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And it's not just the homeless who have a tough time. There is a whole world out there of people who, whether or not they celebrate Christmas, will not have an easy time on December 25.

There are people who don't know where their next meal is coming from, and others who live in fear of extreme sectarian violence and could get killed just going to the shops.

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There are children on the streets, women living in fear of violent husbands, people lonely, afraid, confused and helpless, all around the world.

And still we worry about lavishly wrapping presents and enjoying our rich Christmas food.

I'm not necessarily saying that we shouldn't do any of that, but more that we should do it realising just how lucky we are.

I also hope that some of us out there will turn these realisations into actions, and spare a little of our Christmas budget for people who really need it.

It is hard, I know, to think that we have money to spare, but really and truthfully we always do, even if it comes from spending a little less on every present or donating a couple of pounds by having one less pint down the pub.

The choice of where and how to donate your money is almost endless, be it local organisations or national charities like Oxfam and Shelter, but my message really is: just donate it.

And it doesn't really even have to be money - as you will see from my feature (pages 8 and 9) on North Herts Sanctuary, the shelter is always looking for donations of food or bedding.

The temptation is to think that wider problems in society and in the world at large don't really concern us.

This is something which has never really held much sway with me but even less so after Judy Recontre, the manager of North Herts Sanctuary, told me that everyone is only one month's salary away from trouble.

I don't say that to scare people but to really hammer home the message that misfortunes of all kinds, whether it's homelessness or poverty, are things which happen to all people, not just other people.

So enjoy Christmas with your loved ones but please remember those less fortunate, and give them what you can.

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