Author: Clare Ellis:
"In the words of the great author, Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times and the worst of times”. Much of that sentiment can be applied to Christmas.
Christmas can be a magical time. But as we all know it can also be a particularly sad, stressful and difficult time. Illness, bereavement, financial worries, loneliness, and isolation from family are just the tip of the iceberg for many people. However imagine these difficulties compounded by not having a safe place to sleep or live. How would you cope, if it happened to you?
I never thought it would happen to me or my family when on the twenty first of December, over twenty years ago I gave birth to my own son, Joseph. He was three weeks early and was born into a very very cold and snowy Christmas scene. Too excited to sleep I talked to my new son, and counted his fingers and toes in wonder. From the top floor of the John Radcliffe maternity ward we could see Oxford’s twinkling lights and snow covered spires as the snow fell heavily into thick drifts upon the ground. Idyllic.
That Christmas, Joseph, (Joe) slept under a twinkling Christmas tree in a Moses basket . I have never known such joy and love and hope as that of the birth of a baby. Of course as we all know, another baby boy, an incredibly special baby boy, the baby Jesus was also born at Christmas time.
When I became homeless with my two sons as a result of fleeing domestic abuse it was the start of a new life for us, and I was incredibly grateful to be safe at last, but Christmas is such a difficult time to be homeless. Walking the brightly lit streets of Oxford and seeing families together holding hands, little children’s faces lit up with excitement, I felt so much sorrow and loss - for the childhoods I wanted for my children as the shocking reality of what had happened began to sink into all of us. Attending a charity bingo I had to hide in the toilets as tears overcame me at seeing the bright happy faces of young children, like mine had once been.
That Christmas, it was so hard not having our most special possessions like my two son’s handmade Christmas decorations and photographs. With hardly any clothes or money, I experienced overwhelming feelings of failure as a parent, shame for our situation, and fear for our futures.
Thanks to the support I’ve received, this year it will be a very different Christmas - I will be in my own home. Home and family is everything to me. Home now means warmth and security. I’m so excited about Christmas that the decorations are already up - it’s early, I know but for me there is such magic in the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. The presents underneath won’t be expensive, but they don’t need to be. We have a home, each other and a future to look forward to.
This Christmas, please support Oxford Homeless Pathways and Aspire to give the skills and support needed to lead people away from lives dominated by homelessness, fear, addiction, abuse, loneliness and loss. Please give them the chance of a new life, with work, self -respect, and a place to call home. Be the innkeepers that lead Joseph and Mary into their stable and find a place for Oxford’s homeless people into your heart. Turn a life around this Christmas.
Author: Clare Ellis
Please help Aspire and Oxford Homeless Pathways this Christmas by donating to them or organising a fund-raising event. You can use this link:
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