Differences are often seen as reasons, justifications to not integrate or co-exist with others because of a difference on beliefs, faiths or sexual orientation, but rarely as a reason to make a concerted effort to be-friend one another, perhaps even more so given recent and continued divisive world to events such as the American presidential election, Brexit and the war on terror, with the recent Casey Review stating that segregation and social exclusion are at "worrying levels" within the U.K.
Over the last few weeks a group of charities and volunteers in my local community have been working together to help welcome several Syrian refugee families as they move into the local area of Stratford Upon-Avon. These families are part of the 20,000 refugees that the U.K Government have pledged to re-settle within the U.K. As part of this re-settlement the families are provided with a list of necessities such as a house, furniture, food package and a support worker to name just a few. However, many things are not included within this grant such as a television, children's clothes, toiletries, bedding and so on, many of the everyday essentials that we would deem as being necessities, especially for families with children.
The group of volunteers consists of volunteers of all ages, religions and social backgrounds, including and not exclusively of Quackers, Christians, Muslims and Athiests, working together with the local councils and charities to not only help provide the families with the lists of items that were not deemed as being necessities, but with the long term support and integration of these families into the local community, by organising events such as tea parties, events with other local children, travel support to name just a few.
Despite the challenges that these families have been through over the last few months the gratitude, humility and relief that they have is plain to see, despite the language barrier. On the several visits that I have been fortunate enough to make to one of the families new homes, their insistence on freeing up a sofa for the volunteers, providing each of us with drinks, despite only having enough for themselves are just two of the examples demonstrating their gratitude.
This small but powerful example demonstrates that differences between us, are no reason or excuse for us to not only co-exist and integrate, but to collaborate, to help improve the levels of integration within the local communities that we live in.
As we get into the festive season and time of goodwill, it's easy to overlook and take for granted the everyday matters that we are fortunate to have, that give us a level of comfort and safety that others around the world, even within the U.K aren't as fortunate to have. But let's not forget that each of us have the oppourtunity to help those around us, whether through a charitable donation, spending time with those who may not have local family or friends or even spreading the feeling of good will with a small token of appreciation to those around.
Even the smallest of acts can have the most significant of impacts. When better to do so than at this time of year.