Christmas has always been my favourite time of year but with three young children now it is without doubt the most magical time in our house. My husband jokes about whether its me or the children that gets most excited about putting up the Christmas tree and preparing for Santa.
This year, with a seven, five and three year old, I was ready for the all of the magic. They are the perfect ages for maximum Christmas joy. The Santa visit was booked, the Christmas jumpers were retrieved, and the children’s nativities were getting underway. But despite our usual festive build up there was something different this year – the Christmas magic didn’t land the same way it usually does.
I, like many people across Ireland, had been stopped in my tracks and shaken to the core by the images coming from Gaza. I found myself smiling at my children dancing along to Christmas songs decorating the tree, but in my head I couldn’t stop thinking about the image from Gaza that I’d seen of a lifeless body of a baby being passed in through a car window after being killed by an Israeli airstrike. As the Christmas music played on in our living room I looked away to hide the pool of tears forming in my eyes.
There were several moments like this over the festive period where the most conflicting of emotions came crashing at the same time. Normal mundane moments like feeding porridge to our three-year-old took on a new significance as I asked him if his tummy was warm and full. As I looked at his contented little face and thought how fortunate we are to be able to meet his needs because there are mothers in Gaza unable to give their children the most basic human requirements of safe, clean water to drink, and that is if their children haven’t already been killed.
As my children huddled together in excitement to see Santa a lump formed in my throat about those children who had cuddled their siblings for the last time. With every moment of Christmas magic a dagger of pain for those in Gaza followed quickly behind. On the surface I motioned through all of the Christmas timetable, but I was preoccupied with how incredibly unfair this world can be and at times the horrors seem impossible to comprehend.
And yet, despite the horrors that we are witnessing I enter 2024 with hope. I started a new job as Head of Communications with Trócaire in November and saw the very antithesis of those despairing scenes.
My first few weeks in the role exposed me to the very best of humanity. I have sat on calls with colleagues working with partners to try and get aid to those who need it most in Gaza. One of Trócaire’s consultants in Gaza, Reema Ibraheem, sends voice notes to our CEO Caoimhe de Barra with the most harrowing updates, including the lack of clean drinking water for their children and the lack of medicines available if they become sick. I hear first hand how Trócaire’s partner Medical Aid for Palestinians, is working against the odds in Gaza to ensure that those injured, many of them children, receive urgent medical care to give them the best chance of survival.
It’s not just Gaza where Trócaire is making an impact – I have had my eyes opened to the most incredible work this organisation is doing in countries like Ukraine, Ethiopia and South Sudan where children are caught up in conflict. So while it seems like there is no end to the suffering I am in a privileged position to be able to witness and communicate the fact that there are very many wonderful people who have committed their lives to making this world a better place.
Just before Christmas I attended a long service awards ceremony where over one hundred Trócaire staff located around the world joined a call to congratulate more than 60 staff members who had been working for Trócaire for between 10-25 years. People so passionate about improving the lives of others that they have committed huge parts of their careers to Trócaire and the work it does.
But the work of Trócaire would not be possible without the support of the Irish people. For 50 years the Irish people have supported Trócaire and communities it serves. No matter the pressures people are facing here at home they are always willing to turn their compassion into action, supporting people to live with dignity, justice and freedom from fear.
As we start the new year and resolutions are at the fore of our minds it is pertinent to remember that we, as individuals, can make changes which in turn can have a chain reaction around us. Even when sometimes the issues seem far beyond our control we all hold power to bring about change. Whether it be a small act of kindness, advocating for those who don’t have a voice, having patience and tolerance for those walking different journeys than ourselves.
And while we continue to bear witness to the horrors unfolding in Gaza and elsewhere we must hold on to hope that, through our own individual power to enact change, together we can create a just world.