I bet I’m not the only one who’s been rushing around trying to get everything done in time for Christmas, and feeling slightly frazzled in the process, right? The festive season now seems more a celebration of rampant consumerism than of spending time with loved ones. When it all starts to get too much it’s good to take a step back and think about what’s really important. It’s not the expensive presents that make special memories, it’s the quality time shared with family and friends.
I consider myself very lucky to have such wonderful family, friends and colleagues who make me laugh and feel valued. I try never to forget that not everyone is in such a fortunate situation. I’ll be out in Manchester over the weekend, and I know there will be many homeless people camped out in shop doorways. I’ve seen it many times but it never fails to shock and sadden me.
Dipping into our pockets and handing over some spare change might momentarily assuage the guilt, but we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of kindness at Christmas (or at any time of year for that matter). It’s all too easy to get carried away in the frenzy of shopping and parties and forget about the true spirit of Christmas. Just stopping to talk to people and sharing a smile, a compliment, good wishes – it makes a difference.
Virgin Trains are spreading the message of kindness at Christmas by painting the script of the iconic festive film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ on the platforms of its stations from London to Glasgow. I popped down to my local station in Crewe to see them for myself. Lines from the film have been painted on platforms along the Virgin Trains West Coast route including London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow stations.
Frank Capra’s 1946 film, which is a Christmas TV staple, is an uplifting story of family, love, hope and redemption. But it’s also the story of one man’s struggle with a life that hasn’t gone to plan, leading him to contemplate suicide. The central character, George, is ultimately saved by help from the community. While the film may be more than 70 years old, it still holds an important message today.
The ‘It’s A Wonderful Line’ campaign has been developed with Virgin Trains’ charity partner, Rethink Mental Illness. It recognises how difficult the festive period can be for people suffering with mental health issues and the positive impact that simple acts of kindness can have.
The film is especially poignant at this time of the year when some of the most vulnerable people can find themselves particularly isolated. Now is as good a time as ever to reach out to friends you haven’t heard from for a while, pay a visit to an elderly neighbour, or strike up a conversation with someone you see regularly but rarely speak to. A small act of kindness can make a big difference, perhaps more than we know at the time. As someone who has suffered from depression, I know how pivotal a kind word or gesture can be.
It is hoped that by reading the lines from the film or even watching it, passengers will remember that everyone needs a little help sometimes. Throughout December, Virgin customers will be able to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ on Beam1 – Virgin Trains’ on-board free entertainment service. Volunteers from Rethink Mental Illness will also be fundraising at Virgin Trains stations throughout the festive period.
Rethink Mental Illness runs an advice and information service for people who are affected by mental illness. Lines are open 9:30am-4pm Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays) and the number is 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at local rates) or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org