Give the gift of yourself this Christmas

You know there is nothing in this world as important as the present you have yet to pick up for Christmas. Or the friend you just have to meet. Or the things you just have to do. Or the stuff for the turkey that your one without the hairnet on the telly said you just must have. And so on and on and on.

What driving force is it that says that we will be judged solely by what we have or what we give over the next few days? And that if we do not give or own whatever it is, our lives will never be the same again. It is the Christmas panic and it is that loss of perspective that creates the accident zone that is this season.

So much of an atmosphere has been built about the season of Christmas that we tend to lose the run of ourselves in the next 48 hours, leading to a loss of focus on either the true meaning of the feast or just how important all of these things are. With the recent budget and the spiralling unemployment dominating the agenda, let us return to a more basic Christmas, like the ones we used to have before we got cappucinos and notions of grandeur.

Over the past few days, across the city and county the St Vincent de Paul has been busy distributing its funds, for which they are most grateful. Their task has become increasingly difficult given the emergence of Galway's new poor — a strata of society which, as I said a few weeks ago, finds itself spiralling out of control in the Christmas maelstrom. As you read this, there are many people walking the streets with tears in their eyes and pain in their hearts, grieving because of an absence of money, opportunity, or companionship. The wanton abandon with which we tend to spend at this time of year only makes that feeling even worse.

As a season, Christmas is ironically very unforgiving. It paints a picture of domestic bliss while, in many cases, it is a forced festival with the pain of loneliness accentuated by the concocted images that are put forward as the true picture of Christmas. This coming Christmas and New Year, take some time out from the gluttony and the indulgences and without any religious bias, think of what you can do to make Galway city or county a better place. It might be only a small thing, a gesture to someone who does not receive gestures, a smile to one of the vulnerable who walk almost invisibly through our towns and city. Make it real and free of the tokenism that is prevalent at this time.

The weather forecast for the weekend predicts that it will be cold, so do not take it for granted that the elderly in your area are OK. Risk insulting them by checking on them. If they are alone and if their fuel runs out, there is nowhere to go and nobody to go to for them, so in the true spirit of Christmas, fill a gap in the life of those who need a bit more this holiday season. Remember those who know only loneliness and fear, who spend the day dreading the night.

Finally, on behalf of the management and staff of the Galway Advertiser and its sister newspapers, we wish you a very happy and fulfilling Christmas. We thank you for your loyalty and for allowing us the opportunity to inform, entertain, and occasionally infuriate you over the past year. We thank you too for your comments, both for and against our commitment to allow as many diverse voices as possible to be heard through our pages. As we approach our 40th birthday next April, we look forward to serving you again in 2010 and remaining Galway’s favourite and most widely read newspaper.

Thar cheann an Galway Advertiser gach dea ghuí i gcomhair na nollag agus na hathbhliana.

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