A new week at Ben’s, and just over two weeks to go until Christmas. Our tree will go up this week in the Centre. Wendy has been making some beaded tree ornaments (see picture) with the clients to put on the tree. It is a very bitter sweet time for most of them. It highlights for a lot of them where they’re at in their lives and it increases their isolation and loneliness. Living on the streets anytime is hard but at Christmas it is a desperate time. Drinking is a social activity for most people which increases at this time of year but for our clients it makes the divide from society bigger and more apparent. The only place they can drink is on the streets, bearing in mind that the City Centre is in the Alcohol Restriction Zone where they are not allowed to drink, so the chances of them being moved on are high as is their drink being confiscated.
At Ben’s we try to strike a balance in celebrating Christmas but not going over the top. We will have a lovely Christmas dinner (watch this space), but there is usually an air of sadness that hangs in the air. It brings up so much of their past and often leaves them feeling guilty as they have made some unwise choices and probably hurt some people and they can be separated from those they love. They will receive a gift and we try hard to move past the obligatory hats and gloves they often receive from other agencies. These are always welcome but we try to give to them as individuals with some thought and care. Last year we spent a long time deciding what to buy for each of them and it was very successful. They felt loved and cared for and valued. For most of them this will be the only gift they receive, the only personal touch they will have. It’s like they are looking in through a window, at the rest of the world, and they think everyone is having an amazing time, except them. We try to tell them that for many this is not the reality and in the middle of what look like “happy” families is often a tense unhappy time. Christmas brings up a lot of pain and sadness for many people. What are your feelings about Christmas? Does this resonate with you? Do you love everything about Christmas and can’t wait for it to come or do you say roll on January 2nd.