Share more than just presents

Visitors to the Dore and Totley Day Centre Luncheon Club, held at the Dore and Totley United Reformed Church,Totley Brook Road, Sheffield, enjoy their meal.

Visitors to the Dore and Totley Day Centre Luncheon Club, held at the Dore and Totley United Reformed Church,Totley Brook Road, Sheffield, enjoy their meal.

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Christmas is a time for giving.

The message is in every shop window, it’s on every TV advert and if you’ve missed all that, then the words will ring through your ears in the voice of Cliff Richard as Mistletoe and Wine plays out on every radio from here to Timbuktu.

Anyone who has braved the festive fury of Meadowhall or Crystal Peaks any time in the last month will be able to testify that our capacity and preparedness to give is not in short supply, on the contrary, we give by the sack load.

We surround our trees with gifts, pack our fridges with food and fill our homes with the people we love.

Then we share it all – we share the turkey and the stuffing, we share crackers, the sofa, the space under the mistletoe, the board games, the new toys and even the washing up.

This is Christmas, and these are things we look forward to with excitement incomparable to any other event in the year.

But, while we look on to December 25 with eager anticipation, 2.2 million older people are looking forward with worry , with 400,000 saying they are dreading spending the festive season alone.

The ugly truth is that sadness and solitude are never more than a stone’s throw away.

But, the wonderful reality is that solutions and preventions are even closer by.

The ways we can give at Christmas are not confined to things that come in boxes with bows and the best things are not found inside crackers or cards, they are found in our company.

Sharing our company with one of the 400,000 people who are dreading Christmas alone is possibly one of the best gifts we can give.

Pulling an extra chair up to our table, or welcoming guests for a mince pie supper takes little effort, but could eliminate the dread with which many face Christmas.

Last year, along with a team of amazing volunteers, I organised a Christmas dinner for people who would have otherwise spent Christmas day alone; unquestionably the best gift I’ve ever given and the best Christmas day I’ve ever had.

We had over 60 guests, and this year we’re expecting over 70, but we only wish we could reach more.

So here’s a plea to every reader. Let’s make sure we give this Christmas, a gift that doesn’t fit into a box, to a person who really needs it.

Merry Christmas.

Ruby Smith is head of Personalisation, Care, Health and Wellbeing at South Yorkshire Housing Association