The Christmas Hamper

I received an e-mail from a friend of mine in a form of a round robin, from a local charity urgently requesting food for their Christmas hampers for the poor……….it sent me all over the place.  It sent me to a place I have not forgotten, but also a place I find so painful I can barely go there, but a place nonetheless that was to change my life.

I rang the lady up and asked her how they did the hampers and found that I was really quite aggressive ‘I was one of those poor people six years ago and I would hate for anyone to feel as patronised as I did by the way I was presented with mine’. Not by that charity I hasten to add, but the word HAMPER was enough to send me into a really dark place.

I wanted to give money, so people could choose for themselves and not just have what thew have been given and chosen for by another person……….obviously there are a small few who would not use the money for Christmas, but who are we to tell people what to do with their Christmas money, who are we to bloody well tell them what to eat on Christmas day just because they are fucking poor…….I hate the patronising attitude attitude of the do gooders who cannot begin to imagine the humiliation of being in the place where things are so bad you can barely afford electricity and you have no idea how the hell it got so bad.


Six Christmas’s ago, well just before Christmas, November 17th, I was baptised in the Holy Spirit, not a religious thing for me, a cleansing of the old and a welcoming of the new and as I gave my talk I talked about the poverty, the homelessness and the fear thad had been upon my son and I for so many years………….I asked God to change my life, little did I know that he tests you first, really tests you, well he did me, that is for sure.  Not long after my baptism I had to cash in an insurance policy I had had for my son, in case I died, for some reason I was constantly convinced it was only a matter of time before I died and he could not be left with nothing.  Alas, I could not pay my bills so I cashed it in and felt very clearly that I was being told, in my prayer and meditation time, to give loads of  the money away to a local homeless charity……… I walked up to the door, and handed over the cash in an envelope I knew it was right but I felt so scared as we had virtually nothing for Christmas.  I had asked my house group leader if he could ask the paster to help, I was sobbing my heart out in church, maybe I should not have done it, why won’t they help me?  The paster refused to help me, I had said nothing about giving away the money, he simply refused to help us.  A few days later, the door bell went and there were these two, young, not particularly attractive, thank goodness, women, who were giving out hampers from our church to the poor………..a small cardboard box, covered in shitty Christmas paper and whatever was inside of it covered with poppers and paper streamers.

What was below them was nothing short of patronising in my opinion and I could barely contain myself as I stared at this fucking cardboard box and looked up at their cheery faces and thought you have no idea what this feels like……….I had hit rock bottom.  As I peeled away the crap on the top of the contents, below was the smallest Christmas pudding, stuffing, alcohol free drink, a few other odds and sods and I looked at them and said ‘nice to have all the stuffing and trimmings……….but you have completely missed the point, what am I supposed to put it in……….I can’t afford a fucking turkey’.  My life was severely in complete chaos and I have never known lonliness like it for a very long time.

Now, here I am , standing on this woman’s door step, having driven here in a wonderful car, I have a great home and my son has had a good education and he knows who his father is and I am again offering money to help the poor.  It is Christmas and I can barely pay my bills, will have little for me once it is all done, but again it feels like the right thing to do.  Again I was feeling irresponsible as I went to her door, shaking and thinking maybe this is not right, but I knew it was.  Gratitude came over me as I looked at what I have, and we are all called to give God the cream not the dregs of our income.  As I was talking to the lady on her doorstep and explaining to her the importance of the ‘Hamper’ and where I had been and where I am now, she said to me that one of the other women had said to her if we do not get enough food donations we are going to need money to help all the people.  She then went on to say that this lady had a direct line with God and it always comes………….and here you are!  I said you can tell her, I have a direct line too and that is why I am here and that is why we all need to listen to ‘our marching orders’, no matter how scary they are, and  believe me, I am scared right now, but I trust!

I went on to explain to her about my life and how it had been for me, I asked her to please ensure that the Hampers were full of wonderful things and that they do have a turkey, and if not to please sort one out, or that the people may be vegetarian. To maybe make arrangements with Sainsburys, Tescos, M&S and Waitrose to give things to help.  I also told her how it really felt being in such a desperate position that taking handouts can feel so humiliating if given in a patronising way.  She said she had really never thought about things in the way I am telling her. I felt so tearful sharing this moment with her, she was very kind and open, I had never shared these feelings so openly before. I went on to tell her  that I am now writing a book about my experiences, writing my way out of poverty and she said ‘you must write your book, people  need to know just how it feels and if you have not been there, you do not really know’.  ‘I will’ I said, and thanked her.

Between December 1999 and today our life has changed, I was blessed with a private education for my son, a car, a wonderful home when we had barely two weeks to find somewhere to live a friend stepped in and helped us, we had two weeks to go before we could so easily have been on the streets or living in a complete shit hole that to be honest would have not helped with my mental health at all.  How could I do nothing to help people worse off than myself?

These were all answers to prayer and a belief that if you do ask, it is given, it is just that when you are so overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness it is almost impossible to believe that things can get any better, and in that moment, I find I have to find it in me somehow, remember what God has done for me so far and believe it will be ok and all the testing I am begining to see, I have always been rewarded ten fold, when I listen and do what feels completely mad, it has been to prove my trust.

This story was written in 2005, our lives have been up and down ever since, and sometimes I find it so hard to believe that there is a bigger plan, but always without exception, God has moved in mysterious and wonderful ways and it has been five years since I wrote this story, things have been really tough again and then another situation comes along and we are ok…….I am begining to learn that God really does know what we need. My son now has a full time job and is really doing so well and I am writing this, and doing other things to help me get better.  I have a home that I love and people around me, who actually care about me.  I am begining to realise I am not driving the bus and I could never imagine what is coming next, so I just keep going one day at a time.

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