Opinion: Matthew Munson – Remembering the goodwill of Christmas all year round

Christmas gifts

Term dates. Watching kids’ films. Learning (or not) how to do Meccano sets. I have started to develop an entirely new skill-set over the past few months. I have also had to stop getting annoyed at the little things in life that I have no control over.

Thankfully, I am also able to laugh at myself and at the absurdities of trying to sort out a Meccano set at 6.30am because we don’t have any other time to do it, Dad. I’m very conscious of the upcoming Christmas holidays and how I’m going to keep an eight-year-old busy for nearly three weeks – I’ve unsuccessfully lobbied for Bryan’s school to remain open over the holidays. I wasn’t really listening, but there was something about “needing a break” and “employment legislation”.

In the meantime, this week has proved to be a busy one; I went to Bryan’s carol concert on Monday evening, and the sense of pride on his face was palpable; quite right too, because he opened the entire show. It was a short, lovely show, and I was proud too, more than I even thought possible.

I am acutely aware of it being panto season, although I can’t bring myself to utter a cliché in the middle of this paragraph. I appeared in a couple of pantos, years ago – once as a genie of the lamp in Aladdin, and once as an Ugly Sister. Decency (and a hazy memory) prevents me from giving too many details about these theatrical pieces; I wasn’t particularly good and the stockings chafed. Bryan has already been to one panto, at the superb Sarah Thorne Theatre in Broadstairs. He came home still laughing at the jokes, to the extent that I ended up contacting one of the lead actors to get the lyrics to a particular song which down a treat with his entire class. I think I’ll be taking him back for a second viewing at this rate – a high compliment indeed.

I was also caught off-guard this week when, on an early-morning commute, I saw a man in his 60s lose his footing on the icy ground. He went flying on the station platform and cracked his head as he went down. I rushed forward to help, because that was my natural human instinct – but the amount of people who hurried past as they rushed to their offices was dispiriting. I even caught one lady scowling at the fallen man as she had to walk around him, like he was an inconvenience to her. I would have said something if I hadn’t been concerned with the humanity of the moment. The message about the season of goodwill clearly hadn’t seeped through.

Christmas-time reminds us that people need help, but of course we shouldn’t need help remembering. It should be something we do all year round; but I saw in that moment on the train station that the message hadn’t reached everyone. The indifference – the focus on getting into work – was disheartening; I can only hope their loved ones would be treated with respect and tenderness if – God forbid – they were in a similar situation.

I intend to take Bryan out and contribute to the community over Christmas; I haven’t decided how yet, but we both want to give something to people less fortunate. I’ve been given some excellent suggestions; perhaps we can all contribute in some small way? My festive period will be full to overflowing with joy because of the child in my life. We should all be able to share a bit of our own joy.