The Christmas tree is looking like it could use a drink.
The fairy lights too look a little tired, yet the angel on top manages to maintain a degree of serenity while all else in the house has an air of "survivor guilt" about it, as if the festivities were all so much of an endurance test.
I love Christmas. It is an oasis in the barren wasteland of work and routine.
For a while - all too short - we actually give ourselves permission to stop and be grateful for what we have and take a look at those who have nothing. It was very sad to see Brother Kevin of the Capuchin Day Centre saying it again had one of the busiest years ever.
This remarkable man has been giving his all for generations. What started out as a soup kitchen now also doles out food parcels to the needy.
The aid provided by Bother Kevin and his team has been in demand since the banks and the economy went to the wall. The brothers neither blame nor question. I know Brother Kevin doesn't advertise or market their services either. His philosophy is that God will provide so long as there is need.
He has thankfully been proving correct, but it shouldn't have to be so hard.
Are we all doing enough to see that everyone gets a fair shake? Sometimes that means giving and other times it means doing, or holding to account those who could do something but don't.
Why, one wonders, after the construction explosion, is there a shortage of homes? And why has nothing meaningful been done to address the crisis caused by soaring rents?
Christmas is about warmth and caring. It is about reaching out to those who are left in the cold.
Many have forgotten that it is about the birth of light and hope, but if we forget those who are suffering or in need of shelter then we have lost its meaning.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote: "There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread."
Crumbs of comfort or food for thought?
Given our recent history when election pledges during the boom contributed to bankrupting the country, I agree with William A Thomas (Letters, December 29) when he gives out to politicians about making promises.
He does contradict himself somewhat, however, when he castigates our politicians for promising everyone a minimum of €188 per week while at the same time praising the government in Finland for ensuring that everyone in that country will get a minimum of €800 per month.
Sutton, Dublin 13
Eighth Amendment targeted
The campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment is in full swing in the lead-up to the General Election and a possible referendum. It is designed to soften up public opinion, thus influencing voters and public representatives to opt for wide-ranging abortion. It aims to end the last remaining constitutional protection of the baby in the womb and to gloss over the fact that many Irish citizens are alive today due to its protection.
The basic and inescapable case against abortion is its definition: abortion is "the deliberate and intentional killing of the baby in the womb". I passionately believe that the word "abortion" should never be used without attaching its definition.
All the reasons given to try to justify abortion are wrecked on the rock of this definition that forces us to look into the stark horror of this awful procedure. The reasons are many and varied and may seem at first glance to be pretty plausible. They include rape, incest, the callous phrase "fatal foetal abnormality" and the words "I can do what I want with my own body", "abortion is right for me" and "abortion is a human right".
In the vicious crime of rape, if there is a baby, that baby is totally guiltless and in no way responsible for the father's crime. You could say mother and child are both victims. As for "human rights", how can killing a human being be a human right? With "fatal foetal abnormality", the view is that a person with a serious disability or a terminal illness should be killed because their time to live is short, as if even a few minutes of life do not have value.
The campaign ropes in prominent figures who could influence public opinion: the head of a body once noted for human rights, figures in medicine, law, the media, film stars, pop stars, TV and radio presenters whose views could be given some importance, even the head of an institution engaged in maternity care. However, a thinking voter or public representative will have the intelligence and integrity to arrive at a thought-out viewpoint based on sound ethical principles well before any election or referendum.
Finally, if not abortion, what? Well, there is a great need for perinatal hospice care to be made available across the country: high quality palliative care which helps families to win precious moments with their baby, even if only for a very short time.
There is also a need to recognise the financial and social reasons behind many abortions and to offer the support we should expect in a compassionate society. Ending the life of an innocent child in the womb can never be the answer.
Joseph L Conroy
Naas, Co Kildare
Adams exposes SF to scrutiny
From the tone of his letter (Letters, December 24), it would appear that Gerry Adams is still trying to pull the wool over the electorate's eyes. He knows as well as anyone that the Special Criminal Court is an essential tool in the fight to defeat terrorist organisations such as the Provisional IRA and its dissident offspring.
He seems ever-ready to attack the opinions of respected politicians who are not prepared to countenance a disrespectful attitude towards those who are charged with upholding the laws of the land, choosing instead to focus on an illogical belief that an old crony has been wrongly dealt with.
Mr Adams can hardly be unaware of the appalling racketeering and diesel laundering activities that are part and parcel of everyday life in south Armagh and north Louth. The man for whom he makes a robust defence has been found guilty on nine counts by three distinguished judges.
By continuing his challenging behaviour towards the democratic structures of the State, Mr Adams has surely left Sinn Féin more open to closer public scrutiny than might otherwise have been the case - and perhaps that is no bad thing this close to a general election.