Maybe the recession will make us nice again

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 (and we in the media are as guilty if not more than the rest of you for fanning the flames of this ) that we tend to lose the run of ourselves, leading to a loss of focus on either the true meaning of the feast or just how important all of these things are.

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 while 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. And this year more families will know the pain of unemployment and redundancy than for many a year.

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 over the past few days has been 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.

This year more than ever, with recession biting at all our backsides, perhaps we become better people, and let us shed the materialism that has dominated our lives since the beginning of the boom. Like a sharp frost, maybe the recession will kill all the bad bugs and make this country a nicer place to live in again.


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