The streets of Ballymena lie strangely quiet for an early December evening. The odd passer-by shuffles through the town rather than herds of frantic holiday shoppers. It’s a strange feeling. The idea that the month of merriment and cheer is upon us, but little is there to show it.
The familiar staples of Christmas are nowhere to be seen this year as they have been buried under months of isolation and uncertainty. The virus that swept the globe seems to have made this little town somewhat smaller.
In the midst of this dark Christmas, there are small glimmers of light. In the literal sense: the evening lit with the glow of the Christmas lights swarming the town centre. In the other sense: in the darkness of a strange year can be lightened by the small ways we show kindness.
A car stops to ask for directions and two strangers share a brief interaction that ends with a smile and a thankful wave. A young girl stands aside to make way for an elderly couple to totter past at a safe distance. The most recognisable elements of this time of year may not be accessible, but are they really what is most valuable about our Christmas celebrations?
A shining example is set by some of our youngest. St Colmcille’s Primary school led the way this year as they set up a food bank to help families in the local community this season. A pile of grocery bags sits in the corner and for some, that may be all that they see. For others, they hear a sigh of relief as they don’t have to worry about how they are feeding their family today. They feel a weight lifted off their shoulder as they can enjoy Christmas day instead of ignoring their hunger.
The usual festive drinking, carol singing and market visits may not be fuelling December this year, but the community are as strong as they have ever been. We come together in our darkest times to share what we can with those who need it. Isn’t that the best celebration of all?
If you would like to see how you can help families going through food poverty this Christmas, please visit: www.trusselltrust.org/