A couple of weeks ago, I took my grandson Lyle to go and meet Father Christmas.
Old St Nick is a very busy man – particularly at this time of year – so I was thrilled that the elves made some time in his diary for the long trip to Denton and Reddish from the North Pole. Watching Lyle chat to Santa with wonder in his eyes, I was reminded of just what makes Christmas so magical.
It’s a time of the year where everything feels a little special. Communities come together, families and friends meet and share food, drinks and laughter. For many people, it is rightly a time of joy and love.
But I’m very aware that Christmas is also a time when loneliness and poverty is keenly felt. This is especially true this year, as the cost of living crisis bites hard for people right across the UK.
There is no sugarcoating it, millions of people are facing an extremely difficult winter, possibly the most difficult in a generation. Rising energy bills, soaring food prices and stagnant wages have created a perfect storm which has the potential to wreak havoc on family finances.
The reality is, lots of people will be looking to Christmas worrying about how they are going to put food on the table. It is times like these, however, that the power of community never ceases to amaze me.
I am thinking in particular of initiatives like Re:Dish. For those of you who don’t know, Re:Dish is a volunteer-led community support charity. Not only does it provide food for those in need, it also organises regular social events, mental health support and skills training.
I’ve visited and volunteered at Re:Dish on several occasions. It is an antidote to the doom and gloom that sometimes feels all-prevailing at the moment. Seeing neighbours, friends and strangers across Stockport coming together to help those in need is profoundly moving. I’ve been delighted to watch the charity grow from strength to strength over the last few years.
So I want to take this moment to wish everyone across Stockport a wonderful Christmas, and if you have the opportunity to help out locally please do take it.
Together we can make a difference, and spread a little bit of Christmas joy this cold December.