A couple of years ago Oscar discovered the Dr Seuss story ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’. He loves Dr Seuss and this story was no exception. So when Illumination released an updated version in cinemas last Christmas, it was no surprise that he insisted we go see it.
It was, to be fair, a lovely retelling, and we enjoyed it so much that when a couple of months later it was released on Amazon, were were happy to buy it for him. He was thrilled and has watched it many times over the past year.
So when he watched it last week, in the run up to Christmas, I thought nothing of it. Until it reached the flash back scene, in which we are shown The Grinch’s childhood and how he was left alone at Christmas, with no friends, no family, no gifts and no love.
Oscar watched this and burst into tears. He’s always been an empathetic little soul, but recently he seems to feel and see things we might filter out. It’s a common misconception of Autism, that it involves an inability to feel. While this may apply to some, my little guy almost seems to feel too much, unable, as I say, to filter these emotions. Hence the sudden flood of tears for a fictional character who is left alone, lonely and sad at Christmas.
Of course I comforted him and assured him we wouldn’t leave him alone and giftless at Christmas (“you’d never do that me would you mummy?”). And while that seemed to help a little, he wanted to check no child would experience Christmas like the little Grinch did. And I had to be honest.
I explained that the saddest thing was that some children do not have the Christmas he knows. There are those who are sad, lonely, hurt and left wanting. He looked at me, his little face crumpling and asked “how can we help?”
It wasn’t the response I was expecting.
So I asked him, what did he think would help. Without hesitation he asked if we could “give them a present”. He took what makes him feel good at Christmas and extrapolated. And for a seven year old receiving a gift trumps any understanding of safety, security and love. I say it overrides them but maybe it actually encompasses them? For him anyway.
So I promised we could do something. And this is where I need your help. When I was a child putting together a shoe box of gifts was the done thing, but in recent years stories have to come light casting doubt on the motivations of organisations involved with such collections. We could give to our local food bank, however we already do and to be honest this doesn’t feel like it would address his need to specifically reach out to a child. I really like the ‘Secret Santa’ campaign Action for Children is running online at the moment, where you can donate a gift (an amount of money that could buy a gift or a meal etc) in the name of someone else.
So I’m reaching out. What would you do? Are there any organisations that give children gifts at Christmas who might not otherwise get one? If you have any suggestions I would be very grateful.
And look, I’m a realist. I realise this kind of giving is just a drop in the ocean of need experienced by families across the world every day. But it has come from such a pure and unexpected place. I can’t not encourage it. I want my son to engage with others and begin to increase his understanding of the world. And if it starts with this small act, so be it.
I know one Christmas present, from one child to another, wont change the world. But a Christmas present, this ‘festive’ season, from one child to another, could mean the world.