Reverse Advent Challenge - one Streetie's experience
Richard from Camden describes his experience of taking the Reverse Advent Challenge
I have a reputation for being something of a Christmas "Grinch". While most people are getting excited as Christmas approaches, I find myself increasingly wound up into a froth of environmental and anti-consumerist angst.
While there's lots to recommend Christmas - the celebratory atmosphere and the family get-togethers - I find it hard not to shudder at the thought of all those millions of presents we buy each other - many just for the sake exchanging gifts rather than because someone actually wants that novelty musical rolling pin!
So when Kate (of Streetbank fame, but also a neighbour of ours) told me about her advent challenge, I was an easy recruit. The idea of giving something every day to people that really wanted them struck a chord. So I started to look around for things my wife and I no longer needed and which could happily find a better home. And what a fantastic experience it has been. With a little baby around, it's been hard to be rigorous about posting something every day (as I type this, I'm a little "behind"), but we've just about stuck to the challenge. It's been cathartic having a good clear out, but even better than that, there is a real sense that some of the things we've given away have made a difference.
We've given away a bike frame that went to a social enterprise which trains people with substance misuse issues to be bike mechanics. I offered two suits - one of which has gone to a guy that has been promoted into a job that now requires him to dress formally at work for the first time, and the other has gone to an organisation that tries to find work for refugees.
Alonside those "big ticket" items have been other items like some empty baby formula tins that have gone to an arts and crafts group for older members of our community.
Don't get me wrong, plenty of the other items and their recipients have been much more run of the mill. But those examples highlight the whole ethos of Streetbank perfectly to me. All that stuff you rarely use which you takes up space in your cupboard: there's probably someone out there to whom it would be a treasure. And those things that many people would regard as rubbish to be thrown away: most likely someone can put it to good use.
I don't for second expect everyone to turn their backs on Christmas - I realise I'm a bit of a weird one. But perhaps it's a good opportunity, at the very least, to ensure that we take the opportunity to make room for all those presents by sharing, lending or giving away some of those ghosts of Christmases past.