Community spirit is source of strength this Christmas – Andrew Vine

EVERY Christmas card I’ve received this year has something in common.

All of them carry more than the usual good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Each has a few thoughtful hand-written lines hoping all is well and that the past months haven’t proved too hard.

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I guess a lot of people are finding the same sentiments on the cards their friends and family send, and like me, they’ll find their spirits lifting at reading each of them.

Christmas will take on added poignancy for many families this year.

It means such a lot to know that somebody is thinking about you.

The thought is there in the sending 
of cards anyway, but when somebody takes the trouble to add just a little something else, it takes it to a whole new level.

Everybody seems to be reaching out to others that bit more than usual this Christmas, and it’s a heartening indication that a greater concern for those around us that sprang up during the first lockdown has become a permanent part of the way people feel and behave.

That sense of community and neighbourliness is perhaps the greatest positive to have come out of the dreadful year we’ve all endured – and that we’ll be only too glad to see the back of in a few days’ time.

Christmas cards have taken on a new meaning this year, writes Andrew Vine.

The same sense of togetherness is also there in what is undoubtedly a greater effort put into decorating the outside of homes.

The streets around where I live have never been so full of dazzling light displays, on windows, doors, guttering, trees in the front gardens and even chimneys.

A few households always did it, but this year the number has easily trebled, and it’s absolutely brilliant to see.

This has to be a sign of people not only putting on a show for the enjoyment of their own loved ones, but to cheer everybody else up as well – a statement that however downhearted we may have become at times, it’s always best to look forward with optimism.

Events like Clap For Carers strengthened communities across Yorkshire during the lockdown, says Andrew Vine.

Doing so is going to take a real effort for some, and letting them know that they are in the thoughts of others matters more than ever this year.

Like countless people in Yorkshire, I know several families who will sit down to Christmas dinner with a conspicuously empty place at the table because of Covid-19, and the losses of parents or grandparents are going to be especially hard to bear on a day when being together is everything.

Some older people I know won’t be with their families as a matter of choice, preferring to stay at home and not join large gatherings, while others are altering arrangements due to new Government restrictions.

It isn’t a choice they welcome, but feel compelled to make because of health conditions and the risk now posed by the spread of the new variant of Covid.

We’ve all got a part to play in making sure that the anxiety behind such decisions doesn’t go hand-in-hand with feeling lonely or isolated.

One elderly couple round the corner from me know that in addition to the calls from their family, they can also expect a string of visitors come rain or shine, wearing masks and standing safely back from the front door, calling for a chat and even a socially-distanced drink.

They’re counting the days until it’s their turn to have vaccinations that will liberate them to become the outgoing, active and sociable couple that they are once more.

Until that happens they are shielding, and knowing that neighbours are around, thinking of them, and ready to help in any way makes the monotony and isolation of being shut away from the world much easier to cope with.

Even a phone call can make a huge difference for the better, and something we’ve learned this year is how to visit people without putting them, or ourselves, at risk.

If anybody had said to me 12 months ago that I’d have grown used to having everyday conversations with somebody separated by the length of a driveway, both of us having to shout in order to be heard, I’d have laughed at the absurdity of the idea.

I’d have laughed even louder at the notion of placing a bottle of wine on the driveway, and each of us taking turns to advance, fill a glass, and then retreat to a safe distance in order to toast the hope of continuing good health.

The ritual might look daft, but I couldn’t care less, and neither do any of the people with whom I’ve shared a convivial drink in this way, and will be doing so again over Christmas.

It’s anything but daft to make the best of a bad job if it makes it possible to share Christmas with others and let them know we won’t let temporary difficulties get in the way of keeping in touch.

And if that involves standing about in the freezing cold or pouring rain, then fine.

It’s worth it.

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