Some of us are very lucky and are able to have Christmases full of love, fun, good food and wonderful presents. But there are many amongst us, a lot of them children, who are not so fortunate. With that thought in mind, Parental Choice asked Terina Keene, Chief Executive of the charity, the Railway Children what does Christmas mean to her:
“It would appear we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. Across the streets of the UK this depressing anecdote is creating a drone that is hard to ignore. Can this be true and if so what is driving the manic buying? If everyone truly believes the meaning of Christmas is lost then our behaviour or more importantly our sanity is questionable.
There is no doubt that unless you live in the middle of a remote island the frenzy of Christmas will have affected you, there is no escape, Santa’s annual marketing campaign has reached every household and is successfully adding a ball to the already fragile parental juggling act.
I refuse to believe the meaning of Christmas is lost. I don’t doubt that Santa is ahead of the CoE in the battle of the brands, but true meaning is and always has been much closer to home.
Let me try to bring some seasonal hope to every parent facing the onerous task of organising Christmas.
There is a magical moment that happens once a year. The invitation to this event has no dress code, PJs acceptable and is likely to be over before the sun rises. Children take on the role of ‘sheep dog’ as they seek to round up mums, dads, siblings and grandparents, destination ‘the lounge’. Everyone is seated and the show begins as our children rip open their presents. I would like to say unwrap but I have never seen a child carefully unwrap a present, saving the bows and ribbons, this comes much later in life.
As our children rip, we watch the delight and pure joy on their faces and we know in this moment the value of our hard work. If at this moment we had a mirror and were to look at our faces we would see the same joy written across our faces too.
Children of course do see this as they look up from their ripping and they see our joy and unconsciously they know they are loved and cherished. Not by the ‘gift’ but because love is something we feel and we feel it strongest when we see it reflected in others.
We have created a moment of human connection and if we had a scanner available, recognising this might ruin the moment, we would see that our brains are lit up as brightly as the Christmas tree. Neuroscientists and psychologists call this a wireless connection and it is what bonds us and forms lifelong attachment.
The true meaning of Christmas is present up and down the country as hard working parents share this magical and life affirming moment with their children.
Well this all sounds marvellous I hear you say as you reach for your credit card and reload johnlewis.com/Christmas. Let me not stop you but before I finish this article let me take a few words to tell you about some of the other children in my life and how we seek to bring joy into their lives too.
My work is with the charity ‘Railway Children’. We work with children living on the streets, here in the UK, in East Africa and in India. We strive to make a lasting difference for children and their families who are living extremely difficult lives.
Children who live on the streets have extremely complex needs and have often experienced high levels of violence and abuse. The challenge for us is to find a way to truly engage with a child to see in their eyes that they are listening and are starting to trust you.
Once this moment of connection is made then the hard work can start as we seek to heal the harm and re-establish strong family bonds.
If you are interested to learn more about the work we do at Railway Children then please take a look at our website www.railwaychildren.org.uk. The site not only gives insight into our projects but offers ways you can be involved in helping us make a difference.
Let me finish by wishing you and your children a Christmas morning full of joy and delight that lasts long into the New Year and beyond.”
Many thanks to Terina Keene for her article.
Railway Children fight for vulnerable children who live alone at risk on the streets, where they suffer abuse and exploitation. In the UK, society often denies their existence, and in other countries the problem is so prevalent that it has become ‘normal’.
They run away or are forced to leave homes where they suffer poverty, violence, abuse and neglect. They find themselves living on the streets because there is nowhere else to go and no one left to turn to. The problems they face on the streets are often even worse than those they endured at home. Every day we fight to change their story.
Railway Children race to reach children as soon as they arrive on the streets and intervene before an abuser can. Our pioneering work enables us to get to street children before the streets get to them.