The Best Gift We Can GiveThursday 13th December 2018
Recently I was asked to help a young man who had moved here while claiming asylum. He had come from South Sudan, spoke little English, and had no food nor money to buy food. With some provisions from our Foodbank, and basic Arabic for ‘I have food’ courtesy of ITranslate App, I knocked on the door of the hostel where he was living.
His face lit up and he invited me in. I put the food on the table. Knowing that he was alone, I was surprised that he was putting two plates out and pulling up two chairs. I was even more surprised, and indeed embarrassed, when he gestured for me to sit down and passed me the loaf of bread which I had brought to feed him. I stammered something about the food being for him. He looked at me without understanding. It was not my lack of Arabic or his lack of English that meant he didn’t understand. Rather the concept of sitting down to eat a meal on one’s own when one could share a meal together was alien to him. Even though I had brought be enough for one person for a few days till the Foodbank opened, he wanted to share the food with me, who had plenty in my own cupboards already!
Meals are about more than food; they are better taken together. Yet research suggests that fewer of us eat meals together around a table regularly. Research also suggests that loneliness is rising. Are these two connected, I wonder? Maybe Christmas Day is the day above all others on which we make sure we eat together as a family, without the TV, without the mobile phones, adults and children together, talking, laughing, enjoying each other’s company.
Maybe Christmas Day is the day to invite a friend or neighbour who would be on their own?
Here in Heywood we host a Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day for anyone who would be on their own on Christmas Day. Volunteers give of their time to cook the turkey and all the trimmings, to wait on and wash up, and above all to sit down and chat.
Christmas celebrates the Son of God entering into human Time and Space. Maybe the best gift we can give this Christmas is the gift of time and space around the table, with our loved ones, with those in need.
Fr. Paul Daly is Parish Priest of Our Lady and St. Joseph’s, Heywood, and Episcopal Vicar for Formation in the Diocese of Salford
This article was first written for publication in the Manchester Weekly News on 13th December 2018.