So, this is my last Mummy Mondays before a Christmas break, and I thought I'd share a few links with you. But first, a bit of waffle.
I was shopping the other day, and as I walked through the doors into the supermarket foyer, I saw a group of people collecting items for the food bank. As I passed by, basket looped over one arm and steering my buggy with the other, I watched people stopping to share their groceries.
People willing to buy a few extra tins of food for those who need it.
I find it scary that people, in our country, in this time, are in desperate need of food. That they have no money to feed their children. And although I'm sure the stereotype of parents using their benefits money to buy cigarettes or televisions instead of food might be true in some cases, I refuse to believe that's the norm. I hate that certain parts of the media (mentioning no newspaper names, but I'm pretty sure you know which one I'm talking about) jump to blame the poor for being poor. Once you're in the cycle of not having much to live on, it is very hard to escape from it. It's easy to judge when you are comfortable.
I remember how close Chris and I were, first married, to not having money for food. Having to live off of what we had in the cupboards, and thank goodness we actually had a few bits in their to keep us going.
It's humbling to be in that position. It's also scary, and lonely, and stressful, and humiliating.
For all the things we learnt from it, I don't look back on that time with rose-tinted glasses. Yes we grew closer, and we learnt how to scrape by, but goodness it was hard. And that was with family ready to back us up if necessary.
What about those that don't have anything in cupboards? Or family as a safety net?
Anyway, all this got me thinking about how Christmas is a perfect opportunity to extend grace to people. Sometimes its easy to live in a Christmas bubble. My head is a constant to-do list: must go shopping, must buy this, must wrap this, must send this card off before the post stops, must do that. And you sort of forget that for many people - in our neighbourhoods - are struggling massively to cope and Christmas just makes it worse.
It's the perfect time of year to give people gifts, and not just traditional ones. It's the perfect time of year to give people food. Or money for heating. Or even more important: compassion, understanding, empathy, company.
Christmas really is a perfect opportunity for reaching out to people, and a perfect time to teach children that sometimes you have to step out of your own family bubble and help those who have a much harsher reality than our own.
Reaching out to people - especially face to face! - can be scary. Especially for people who lack social skills (er, me). But I've realised how important it is to do these sorts of things, not just to show Jellybean the importance of thinking of others and doing things that are sometimes difficult or involve sacrifice, but also to remove myself from my own little Christmas family bubble.
Anyway, here are a few charities either to donate to or to help out with that I have been considering. I think that, for children, its important to have something physical to 'do' - posting a donation or giving it in person, or taking part in a fundraising activity, or helping to fill a basket for a food bank. Some sort of action as well as talking about it is helpful for little ones to really understand what they're doing. And I believe it's never too early to start teaching a child this kind of stuff.
The Huffington Post have a good list of children's books that tackle the issue of poverty.
The Trussel Trust are always looking for food donations and their website has a map to find the nearest centre to you.
You can still donate a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child using their online service, Shoebox World. You give a suggested donation and drag and drop your chosen gifts into a virtual box, which then gets packed up in real life and sent off to Romania. Little ones can join in with this easily.
Age UK have some activities to get involved in as part of their Spread the Warmth campaign, aiming to help vulnerable, isolated elderly people.
If you want to start a new season of giving, Compassion UK allows you to sponsor a child and help them with their spiritual, economical, physical and social needs, for £25 per month. You can write to your sponsored child too. For older children, this is a fantastic opportunity to connect with a child living in very different circumstances.
These are the most obvious ones I can think of. Obviously, Christmas is a time for giving to and spending time with loved ones, and for some people that is a challenge in itself ;) still - praying for transformation in our house. Transformed hearts, generous minds, eyes fixed on God, and lips singing praise for all He has done for us.
Happy Monday (sorry this one was all waffle) and I hope you all have a great week!