Christmas is the critical time to reach out to lonely hearts, especially those close to home
24 December 2013
The countdown to Christmas is a critical time to reach out to the lonely hearts, especially those close to home. Source: Supplied
AS the twinkling gaze of children turns to the North Pole to fulfil their wishes, there is an icy gaze by those who feel poles apart from this love and warmth.
Indeed, the Christmas season can be the most polarising time of the year.
For those who lack this love, it is the time when being the ''have nots'' is most in their face. The glow of the nativity scene is lost on them, as they feel that there is no room for them at any inn, not even their own. Sadly, many are tipped over the edge as the pain of loneliness or loss becomes too unbearable.
As families congregate around carols and trees, and the aerial view of society resembles many rotating wheels, those who have fallen off the wheels become the loneliest dots. They seek to be understood, not to understand; to be listened to, not to be lectured. And they may be closer to home than the homeless people.
One can be lonely without being alone. Ironically, the annual celebration of the birth of the messiah could also be the time of pondering the end of a life.
Suicidal Christmas may seem like an oxymoron, but for those involved in its prevention, it is a fatal combination.
It is a time when one can hear one's own heartbeat pounding in one's head, and the ears ringing like sirens, and one's life flash past. The rest of the world seems so caught up in expressions of love that they are oblivious to these ticking time bombs.
And when it tragically happens, there is gnashing of teeth, and a slow motion rewind of all the clues that were missed. The blame game can create lifelong ripple effects and survivor guilt.
When I worked with "street kids", I struggled to understand why they could still take their own lives regardless of how much unconditional love we showered upon them.
"Do you really want to die or do you want the pain to go away?"
That hole in the heart cannot be healed by outsiders; they had to love themselves. Receiving love from others was not the suicide bulwark.
At the funerals, loved ones struggle to find peace. They try to answer one question: Why?
The countdown to Christmas is a critical time to reach out to the lonely hearts, especially those close to home. As we accelerate towards our self-imposed deadlines, we may speed past some subtle cries for help.
A person who suddenly decides to visit relatives and thank them for nostalgic childhood memories may be applauded with, "he is finally learning to show respect for her elders - isn't this wonderful?" But he was actually preparing his farewells.
A person who stops going out with friends at night and instead withdraws to his bedroom may be applauded with, "finally he has outgrown that dangerous stage and stopped wasting money with late nights - isn't it wonderful that he now stays at home with his family?" But he was actually starting to close in on himself.
A person who starts to give away personal and favourite belongings to others may be applauded with, "he takes after his father - isn't this wonderful that he has become so generous?" But he was actually parting from all worldly possessions.
A person who declares his unconditional love may be applauded with, "he will grow up to be a fine man who is not afraid to express emotions". But he was actually saying goodbye.
This Christmas, we can give the gift of saving a life, by giving presence rather than presents. It is indeed the gift of giving, even in the simplest abode, that was celebrated in the first Christmas.
We can try to make lonely people feel loved, and hopefully that they deserve to be loved. It is at this polarising time that they may most need to believe in another miracle: that they are worthy of our time, and worthy of self-love.
Joseph Wakim is a former Multicultural Affairs Commissioner and author of ‘Sorry, We Have No Space.’