On Christmas morning I got in the car and wound my way along the oddly quiet motorway to join a huge team of beautiful souls at the Deptford Crisis for Christmas centre. I had volunteered my time as a yoga teacher.
Christmas can be a desolate time for those living on the streets. With the abundance of so many others highlighting a severe lack of money, food or company.
I was welcomed into a group of amazing people who come together to share their skills, wisdom and stories with those who have found their way into the cracks of societies metaphorical and physical pavements. People who make the lack all the more bearable by simply offering their time.
Crisis sets up centres all across the capital and beyond for the full Christmas period. This one alone blew my mind so to imagine many others just as vibrant and inviting was wonderful. There is every service imaginable being offered and to my personal delight – even Reiki.
The activities on offer provide an array of ways for homeless people to enjoy Christmas – whether its just simply to eat and share a Christmas cracker, have a chat, watch TV, learn a new skill, get some healthcare, to sing karaoke or have a massage. I had a lump in my throat witnessing what can be accomplished by some very willing and kind individuals.
I was deeply humbled by those who came to participate in the sessions to practice mindfulness and meditation. For people who struggle day in, day out to have their basic needs met - it had the potential to be very overwhelming.
If you have ever meditated in a close circle you might know how powerful that experience can be. That in the silence you can feel the energy as it settles, hear the breath of another person and in that moment realise just how beautiful, precious and magic life is. We shared our softly lit library space with a chap in a gentle slumber catching up on some sleep in the corner. I have never felt happier to hear someone asleep during meditation!
Despite what I came to offer, my best memories are the conversations I had. Many of those shared moments will stay with me. In their simplicity they were so beautiful.
As a yoga teacher it has reminded me more than ever how powerful facilitating and holding a safe space for introspection is. That anyone and everyone has an individual struggle which can be met without judgement or comparison and warrants space for unfolding, healing and peace.
When you peel human experience back to its rawest form there is always a basic need for contact from other human beings. To feel a connection, a belonging, an implicit understanding.
During the day I was told on many occasions that the hardest thing to bear is feeling 'other'. At the very least we can all spare a moment of eye contact. Of acknowledgement. Better yet a smile. A tiny act of compassion can go a very long way. To quote a good friend:
"I see you, you matter, and you are not alone"
When I got home - I watched Christmas like an outsider for a few moments like a child looking at the perfect Christmas scene through the window in a Dickens novel. I've never been more grateful for what I have. I squeezed everyone a little tighter that night.
On a very practical note - it’s getting extremely cold. If you see someone that is sleeping rough please contact Street Link:
Street Link 0300 5000914 - 24 Hour Hotline http://www.streetlink.org.uk/
Thank you to Crisis for the gift of Christmas http://www.crisis.org.uk/ - And don't forget that a variety of volunteers are needed all throughout the year.