It's nearly Christmas, and the round of parties, shows, food shopping and preparation has begun again. I've made our cake, which is being fed with the finest brandy by my parents; our pudding is maturing in the cupboard; the children's gift mountain is building up, and our church is collecting presents for the families in our local Women's Refuge.
I was a bit stumped this year. What do you get 12 and 13 year old children? I have no idea, so they are getting clothes. There's also a baby on the way, to another woman running away, and they are getting a gift card and a baby gro. Children in the middle are getting Hello Kitty gloves and Spiderman socks. I've also got some lovely smellies for the mums, and some boxes of chocolate to share around. It involved shopping at Primark, which I rarely do, but they have some nice stuff that will do very well for everyone.
The food bank also needs support, so I buy something everytime I'm in Tesco, and actually, because I don't really go to Tesco either, I go there on purpose. Yesterday I bought two packets of tea, a jar of instant and some hot chocolate for them. Some weeks, I buy a couple of tins of chilli or bolognaise, some rice or some pasta, or some milk powder or UHT.
Why am I telling you all of this? It's not because I want to show you what a good person I am, it's to show that you can do good easily, without going out of your way or by spending a lot of money. If I had picked up the children in the middle of the night and run, I would want to know that some one out there cared enough to buy them a Christmas present; Lord knows the poor souls must be going through hell at the moment. If I was in a low paying job, trying to make both ends meet, being referred to the food bank, I'd want to know that people cared enough to do something, even something as small and seemingly trivial as adding a fiver to their weekly shopping.
I am privileged, I KNOW, and I use my privilege to try to do the right thing. I don't bang on about it, but I am religious and I feel we should be helping people. The Archbishop of Canterbury backed a report a few days ago; I don't think it's all down to surplus food being wasted - it is down to low wages. It's down to benefit cuts. The women's refuge in Hanwell has had its funding cut and cut and cut again, and now it's basically supported by volunteers and people's second hand goods. Yet it is busier than ever. Why is that?
Why aren't people who are in work able to feed their families? Why aren't we, with our supposedly flourishing economy, able to look after the people in our country? People pay taxes, why are they not used to support the most vulnerable in society? Why are people thrown to the wolves?