The art of philanthropy, a trait the Grinch within us not always understand
The holiday festivities of Christmas run unparalleled to that of any other seasonal celebration. Town centres become drenched in luminescent lights and creative decorations, and many of us choose to dress our homes up in the same manner.
Large green trees shrouded in glimmering tinsel and those ornaments you personally handpicked; wrapped presents perched underneath them, basking in the bubbling anticipation of the children so eager to open them up; that infamously decadent Christmas dinner which you make absolutely no promises to “go easy on” – there is truly nothing like it.
But where some of us find these elements wonderfully invigorating, others find them irritable and painful. Enter, The Grinch.
Created by the marvellous Dr Seuss, and brought to life by Jim Carrey in 2000, also revitalised by Benedict Cumberbatch in the animated 2018 reprisal, we have all come to know The Grinch and his absolute disgust for the Christmas holidays.
Since its birth in 1957, the fictional character has stood for the epitome of festive negativity, and his name continues to be associated with anyone who appears to be casting a shadow on the incandescent glow of the Christmas spirit. “Don’t be a Grinch!” they exclaim.
But take a little longer to look at this undesirable character, as though you were staring into the dissipating ripples of the water you just touched, and you may just begin to see a faint resemblance of yourself in The Grinch.
Behind the fairy-tale narrative of the story is essentially one man, living alone, with his doggy best friend. A man merely trying his best to endure the overwhelming experience of the festive period by isolating himself away from the world, and finding every form of solace in the Mount-Crumpit sized plates of food he consumes. Now that isn’t as much of a fictional tale as it is an strikingly accurate perspective on modern life.
In fact, Dr Seuss actually based The Grinch on the reflection of himself – literally. In a 1957 interview with Redbook, he recalls brushing his teeth on the morning of 1956 Boxing Day, and noting a “very Grinchish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss!” he says.
Thrust from childhood into the terrifying world of a grown-up, we no longer find ourselves opposed to The Grinch, for, as adults, we empathise with his story more than we ever thought we would as children.
December can be a very stressful time of year, for at least 62% of people, according to a Healthline survey published in 2016. Considering the 2020 we have all had, it’s no doubt expected those stats will have increased significantly.
The truth is, this annual wave of festivity brings with it a wave of anxiety and emotional turmoil for those who are incapable of appreciating the qualities of Christmas.
Those same colourful bright lights become virtually blinding, the bubbling crowds – claustrophobic, and the enormous Christmas joy of the Whos in society – torturous.
Like The Grinch, there is an abundance of people worldwide who unfortunately suffer from crippling social anxiety, emotionally-driven vices and childhood trauma.
By stephen hinds day: culture Columnist
During a period like this, they fleet away from the nauseating atmosphere of the town, and retreat back into their fortress of solitude where they escape a painful reality through defence mechanisms; whether that be involving food, alcohol, drugs or other variants of distraction.
Even more relatable to Mr Grinch, now more than ever, is the consuming loneliness of those who no longer have a family to surround them, nor friends to support them. Isolation from friends and family is expected to boom this year, as some countries slowly approach the looming reality of a 2020 Christmas spent in lockdown, and the damaging effects of loneliness will fester unfortunately.
Yet, sticking true to the narrative of The Grinch, we relate once more to this character on what is probably the strongest level. Nearing the end of the story, The Grinch is approached by a little girl who proceeds to invite him over for Christmas dinner, even after he almost stole Christmas from the entire town.
Irrespective of his mischievous behaviour, his awkwardly sociable character and abnormal appearance, a stranger still decides to bring him a piece of kindness which ultimately changes his life forever. He goes to the house, and we see him, for the first time, openly offer to help out with dinner preparations.
It is the kindness of strangers that can prove to be so fundamentally empowering to those who feel as though they are hopeless. But also, this capacity for a bigger and more encompassing heart – one that we see The Grinch develop, after listening to the hymnal singing of a resiliently bonded town. In the same manner, it merely takes listening to the voices of those who cannot be heard or understood.
There are many charities which offer a communication service to those who may be experiencing depression and loneliness for Christmas. I will place a list at the bottom of this article with numbers you can contact to help you with your own challenging experience of Christmas, whatever that may be, along with links to volunteer registration.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas from The Mackayan team, and, in the words of Mr Grinch himself: “To kindness and love, the things we need most”. Have a safe and pleasant Christmas everybody.
Samaritans: 116 123 // Volunteer: Become a Samaritans listening volunteer | Samaritans
Shout (Text Service): 85258 // Volunteer: https://giveusashout.org/volunteer-shout/
The Silver Line: 0800 470 8090 // Volunteer: Volunteer as a telephone befriender | Age UK
Campaign Against Living Miserably (C.A.L.M): 0800 585 858 // Volunteer: Volunteer – Campaign Against Living Miserably (thecalmzone.net) (currently paused)
No Panic (Anxiety Disorders): 0300 772 9844 // Volunteer: Volunteer with us – No Panic
BEAT (Eating Disorders): 0808 801 0677 // Volunteer: Volunteering Opportunities – Beat (beateatingdisorders.org.uk)
- 24hr automated breathing exercise: 01952 680 835
- Support page on dealing with an eating disorder during Christmas: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/christmas
AA (Alcoholics Anonymous): 855 201 9180 Link to a list of International Helplines: International Mental Health Charities – Campaign Against Living Miserably (thecalmzone.net)
MACKAYAN: THE GRINCH, THE EVERYMANTweet