An Cailín Rua
THE funny thing about Christmas, I think, is the raising of expectations that comes along with it. That for this one week of the year, everything is – or should be – different and better and happier. If it’s not better and if you’re not having a whale of time, then the implicit suggestion is, that somehow, you’re failing. Not to go all Scrooge on it, but if you’re not feeling the best as is, there’s nothing like Christmas to make you feel even worse. If you’re feeling ill, tired, down or lonely, the forced jollity of the festive season can do a fine job of amplifying it.
For others, Christmas is business as usual. The country doesn’t go into shutdown for Christmas – for many, the wheels keep turning and the day job just gets busier. This column is dedicated to those for whom Christmas is just another day, and who, more than any others, see the reality of the season, and give more of themselves than any others.
To the retailers, for your infinite patience. For dealing with tears and tantrums (and that’s only the grown-ups), the sale and because you go straight back into sale mayhem. You have had to endure Christmas music since October, and for that alone you deserve credit.
To those in the hospitality trade – restaurants and hotels; I hope January brings you some rest. To the publicans, I hope it brings ease from the oblivious who insist on ordering hot whiskeys or complicated cocktails on the busiest nights of the year. (I would never do that, of course).
To our unpaid carers, for whom there is rarely a break over Christmas from this seven-day responsibility. At any time, we could find ourselves as carer or being cared for. Thank you for quietly giving of yourselves for your loved ones, day in, day out.
To our nurses and our medical staff. Emergencies still occur at Christmas, and those of you working in these overcrowded, under-resourced departments deserve our gratitude and appreciation for the work you do in challenging and difficult circumstances. Thank you for being superhuman, yet human.
To our emergency services. This Christmas, your average garda, ambulance driver or firefighter may arrive at an incident to be confronted with a sight that may haunt them for the rest of their days. They’ll probably put their own lives at risk in the interest of our safety. They may be the ones tasked with delivering the worst of news to a family on a dark Christmas night. Thank you for keeping us safe, and for being the thin line between us and the rest.
Seeing the good
To our search and rescue teams. Nobody knows more than you the devastation wreaked by loneliness and despair. You know all too well the eerie stillness of an early morning on the murky river, the hi-vis jackets parading the coastline; eyes peeled for a small sign that means you can bring a loved one home to rest. The steeling of yourself to take on the seas in search of a lost fisherman, the black humour as you confront the chill of freezing fog on the mountainside, listening for a sound, a clue. Many of you do this on your own time, with no payment, and there are those of us who will never be able to thank you enough.
And to our volunteers. Whether it’s making the tea at the local 5k, fundraising, festival volunteering or working in a homeless shelter, any time you give to your community enriches it, and lights the way for the rest of us.
2016 has been a tumultuous year for the world. When disillusionment or despair threatens, remember this beautiful quote from Fred Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
To the helpers - thank you.
And to the readers of The Mayo News, may this Christmas bring you all a warm home, a warm dinner and a few warm hugs. What more do any of us really need?