Christmas is a time for charity and who can doubt the need for it right now? Whether it is more homelessness as the cold weather comes, more domestic violence as COVID keeps people at home or more loneliness for people who are elderly, there are such inspiring charities and social enterprises who are working to support vulnerable people in need – and to challenge the conditions that put them there.
So, whatever the season means to you, of one faith or of none, charity does appear to talk to us all. We can all learning anew that in giving to others, we discover that we gain ourselves.
The fact that so many cards are sent, to raise funds for charities, so many Christmas appeals are made by newspapers – to help create some good news – is heart-warming.
In Sefton, the Venus Centre is collecting presents from local businesses for children who would miss out otherwise. In Smethwick, the Dorothy Parkes Centre is doing the same.
Small charities like this are engines of social participation and of wider voices. I recall Howard Glennister of the LSE saying that a distinctive advantage of charities is our ambiguity – that people who are service users become volunteers and trustees, that volunteers become staff and vice-versa.
I have had the privilege this year of seeing our contact with both Venus and Dorothy Parkes and with over a hundred and thirty or so more charities.
What a job I have. Pilotlight operates as a charity itself with a distinctive role, to allow people to give their skills and not just their money to good causes – working in the process with wonderful individuals, charities and businesses. My thanks to all of you, our trustees and our partners for your engagement over 2021.
I do see the challenges and scourges that communities face. I also see the stress and stretch that charity staff and volunteers experience. But, in their response, I also see the true potential of our society to be more inclusive.
We help people do more for their world. I sometimes think that if we could bottle hope, we could sell it on every corner.
Charities though are not just for Christmas.
We are here all year round. If we could just spill the goodwill of the seasonal break over 2022, the year ahead, then we would genuinely be creating new constituencies for social justice and new waves of the hope that is in need.