Sadly, this Christmas is shaping up to be pretty challenging for a lot of Canberrans.
After the stresses and strain of festive seasons spent isolated from loved ones, facing the uncertainties that the COVID pandemic brought with it, we could all do with a few weeks of relaxation and celebration. We’re all tired, emotional, strung out.
Those who can afford the exorbitant airfares will be looking forward to family reunions, or maybe spending some time on a beach holiday. But for others, this Christmas is going to provide few reasons to celebrate.
Interest rate rises are hitting hard. Everyday living costs are stretching the weekly pay packet. There’s every chance many people have already maxed out their credit cards and, out of desperation, are taking advantage of credit schemes which will only delay the financial pain.
Many are still living in fear of COVID, and will find it hard to relax at a time when there are large family gatherings and more carefree attitudes. Aged care providers are particularly worried about the coming weeks, trying to balance the wishes of residents who want to see family, with the growing COVID numbers.
Without exception, Canberra charities are saying they are struggling to cope with demand in the lead-up to Christmas. More families than ever are looking for help to put food on the table, to put a roof over their heads, to access the medical support they need.
Fortunately these same charities are good at what they do, and are doing everything possible to make sure no-one is left behind. Their task is made a little easier by the generous nature of Canberrans, who offer support through donated goods, by volunteering to help serve lunch on Christmas Day, by handing out everyday essentials to needy Canberrans, or by just listening.
It’s just as well. The Salvation Army said this week it was experiencing a “tsunami of need”. OzHarvest is racing around providing food for more families than it can count. St John’s is desperately in need of more donations to help kids who would otherwise face a Christmas with nothing under the tree.
Helping ACT is putting together 200 Christmas hampers for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable families. It hopes it will be enough, but it probably won’t be. Fortunately Mohammed Ali, Canberra’s 2022 citizen of the year and founder of Helping ACT, is an industrious chap and will make sure no-one goes without.
I don’t want people to think I’m the Christmas Grinch. For those who can celebrate and enjoy Christmas, for which I am fortunate to be one, please do. After the past couple of years we certainly have some catching up to do.
But for many others, this is not the post-COVID lockdown Christmas many were imagining or hoping to celebrate.