person alone, standing on a snowy road

christmas – a time for listening

Matthew Hoddinott

MD of Olyi LTD, helping businesses and people in the construction industry, develop sustainable, inclusive and safe communities so that everyone can led a fulfilling life.

I went to turn the calendar over the other day. December had crept in.


But December never creeps in really, does it? It always comes in with a blaze of Christmas lights for excitement of the days and weeks ahead. Anticipation of the Christmas tree and whatever may lie underneath it.


And then there’s the four or five weeks run-up to Christmas which can pretty much be written off with festive discussions, meetings in the pub, the annual drink with someone that you’ve not seen for 12 months since the last Christmas drink.


It wears on really and December can quite often become very tiring. Often, for many, it can also become worrying. Worries about money for example, particularly for the self-employed or business owners, where the weeks are slightly shorter. There’s less opportunity in the month to earn money but more opportunity to spend it.

The other side of Christmas

Christmas such an odd and funny season isn’t it? It’s such a season of anticipation but for many such a season of worry too.


I see the changes with my family. The excitement of my son as he writes out the Christmas list, thinking “will Santa call this year, what will he bring?” And then the little haze in my wife’s eyes as she remembers people who won’t be here for Christmas. She remembers what Christmas used to look like. She then rearranges the smile on her face to think about what Christmas will look like now, and the joy and spirit that it will bring with it.


But for so many it’s a period of solitude. It’s a period of loneliness. It’s a period where the four walls in which you stay almost become a prison. That single day on the 25th of December where everything shuts down and there is nothing but rubbish repeats on telly.


I think about that often. about how the loneliness would feel. Sometimes in my thoughts, I realise you can feel lonely in a room full of people as well.


The government statistics around loneliness at the moment are disturbing and you have articles in various areas of the press which suggest loneliness is the biggest killer after smoking. It makes you wonder in a society today, how does somebody overcome something as complex as loneliness? How do we make that ever-increasing drive for total inclusivity to genuinely include those people that inevitably feel excluded?


As you look around your office, the bunting hanging off the desks, the bits of tinsel and the festive sparkly badges, you never really know what’s going on behind someone’s eyes. What happens when the lights in the office go out; when the bravado of office chat disappears; when they walk down the stairs to their car and back to wherever they live.

Extending a helping hand at Christmas

And in my thoughts, whilst this is a post about loneliness it’s also a post about opportunity – the ability to extend that hand of friendship to somebody and chat. Just ask how they’re feeling, just show some compassion.


Then it makes me think that Christmas is about so many things to the Christian world. It’s about so many things to the modern world – commerciality, God, reflections on life, giving and maybe not receiving.


I wonder if really the greatest gift that we can possibly give is just that – the gift of time. That gift of a quiet conversation to somebody, to let them know that there is somebody there……. listening, supporting, sympathetic.

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