Yesterday afternoon I spent an interesting half hour or so talking with executives of a local social housing provider. Bron Hafon Housing Association hosted a surgery for tenants and anyone else interested in their work at Pontypool College Campus, and as they have retirement housing and programmes for older people I thought I’d go along and do a little research. Usually, when I think of social housing officers of any rank, into my mind rush images of regimented, controlling and rather humourless types. But those I met yesterday weren’t at all like that. One – clearly a born communicator – sported striking orange hair that matched her dress and the others, while not so satorially creative, were just as sparkly and outgoing. And it was clear that they liked their work, and that it was more than just a job to them. They really do care about the the older people in their housing. They do all that they can to create a spirit of community, and have projects that bring people together as well as finding funding for special interest projects that tenants themselves come up with.
‘What about the elderly not living in your housing?’ I asked, ‘Are you able to reach out to them in any way?’ Yes they do, and they gave as an example their Halloween Celebration project.
Many older people living on their own feel particularly vulnerable on Halloween night. They’re expected to answer the door and if they’re slow to get to it feel harassed when the bell is rung or the door is banged again and again, and once they’ve opened it they aren’t comfortable responding to the ‘Trick or Treat’ demand of the group outside, especially when they’re wearing face masks to look like long dead ghouls. So Bron Hafon is arranging to get them out of their homes for the evening to a special Halloween Celebration Night at a local venue. If I remember correctly, they’re also helping with transport for those who couldn’t manage to come unaided.
What is Halloween exactly? The BBC says it ‘began as the festival of Samhain, the New Year. It was part of the ancient Celtic religion in Britain and other parts of Europe. At the end of summer, the Celts thought the barrier between our world and the world of ghosts and spirits got really thin.’ It’s a pagan thing, then. I’ve never felt comfortable about Halloween. I don’t like to see children dressed as dead people. (Although to be fair, many of them are just dressed up for fun. A little girl in America was dressed as a Herschy candy one year and she looked good enough to eat!)
My neighbours know how I feel about it, but when their little ones bang my door (they can’t always reach the bell) dressed to the nines, sometimes with their parents en guard, I don’t like to disappoint them so I hand out little bags of sweets that also contain a little message about Jesus, and our local church. (Our building has a state of the art play area for children in our community; our folk worked for months on it.)
I mentioned the Bron Hafon initiative to a friend this morning who said, ‘What a good idea! Churches could do the same thing, couldn’t they? They could have a Halleluia Night celebrating life!’ It IS a good idea and I wondered how many churches are doing something similar on October 31st? What an opportunity! If you’re reading this and your church does something, would you like to share what you do exactly?