In the words of one of my favourite performers "I am hardly religious, I'd rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu, to be honest." And I am not a huge fan of Christmas. It generates a huge amount of stress just a couple of days after the end of a long and stress filled term at school so I tend to feel a growing resentment towards the whole shebang. Why, I ask anyone who has the misfortune to be in my vicinity, should I be expected to spend a small fortune on presents after the stress of trying to decide what would constitute a suitable gift for someone who already has everything that they could possibly need? Believe me, when you get to trying to buy an original gift for your 5th child it takes more imagination than I can muster after a 16 week term when I still have a pile of marking and planning hanging over my head.
So, this Christmas I resolved to keep things a little more low key, a little less excessive, with a little more focus on what really matters. I am not convinced that we succeeded. There was still a huge pile of presents under the tree, but I had only purchased things that the children actually needed - so the youngest girl got a new coat, middle child got jeans and a hoody, that type of thing.
Some Christmas traditions couldn't be ignored. One relatively new tradition is parkrun. And on a beautiful, crisp morning like today it was no hardship to go for a run with 327 other people. For me it is a lovely way to break up the morning - a pause between stocking presents and tree presents, and a very social interlude at that. I got to run with one of my best friends this morning. I've never run with her before although she is responsible for me starting to run. My husband and two of my boys ran with me and my older daughter volunteered as a time keeper. Afterwards we had cakes and crisps and prosecco and sloe gin as we chatted with friends before heading off home to continue our day.
But I was reminded of an edition of Woman's Hour I half listened to last week about people who are lonely at Christmas, and the latest episode of the parkrun show. I thought about those people for whom parkrun might be their only contact with other people over the holiday period. And then I thought about the man who walks with his dog in the park every Saturday and never interacts with anyone unless it is to moan about us. He was there again this morning, I wished him a merry Christmas as passed him - in much the same day that I always say good morning to him, and got exactly the same response - which was no reply! I love my parkrun family. I love the welcome I get when I visit new parkruns from people I have met via the parkrun Facebook pages. I can't imagine a better way to start a day that is, for me, all about connecting with people we love.
I hope that, whatever you did today, you had the day that suited you. I guess for me parkrun gives me the sense of community that other people get from being part of a religious/church community. I meet up with people once a week to pursue a shared interest and mark successes and failures along the way. And that is a good thing. So thank you parkrun, and merry Christmas to you all.