As Christmas approaches again I am beginning what is my fifth year of Advent writing. For new readers during Advent I choose a topic and write each day leading up to Christmas. Previous topics have been People, Music, Places and Happy times.
I think it is fair to say that 2016 will be long remembered. A year that saw so many wonderful people pass away, many far too young and the year the world as we know it shifted ever so slightly and left many of us feeling a bit wrong footed. It is easy to reflect on the sad things, the bad things, the senseless murders and the bigoted politicians, but for me that is the way that madness lies. The only thing that chases away dark times is light. A small candle glowing in the midst of darkness gives hope and warmth, all of which is much needed just now.
So the theme for this years Advent is going to be thankfulness and hope. I aim to write each day about a candle in the darkness, to remind myself that there is much more good in this world that we may think.
So day one of Advent 2016 and I am thinking of my home city of Liverpool, a place where so many different people have lived alongside each other for centuries. A port with links to Ireland and Wales, the mixture of souls arriving and staying has created a mood and and soul that reaches across the city and beyond.
In the news this week, a city centre bank had installed a step to ensure that no one would be able to take shelter and sleep in the doorway. A metal slope designed to discourage those who may need to seek a dry spot to spend the night. Now aside from the hopelessness of homelessness, without feeling despair at the sheer numbers of people sleeping in the open air, in the winter time, this new piece of street furniture was cruel and unnecessary. The papers covered the story and people had their view.
What happened next is so typical of this city it was no surprise to me. People came along, they set up a table in the very doorway, and they served hot drinks and food to all that needed it. The message was clear. People who need help will be helped.
So today I am thankful for my upbringing, raised by women came from and understood this city and its attitude, who in turn taught me by example how important it is to help and support wherever I can. I am thankful for the hundreds of meals I have received, that I have never had a day when I knew hunger. I am thankful I have been able to prepare food often and to share it with people I love. I am thankful for all of the meals that say, you are welcome, I hope you are well, I understand your pain or I celebrate your joy.
I am thankful for the gathering of friends and strangers coming together in hope and solidarity. The candles are burning bright, you just have to be open to the light in the darkness.