I COMPLETED a 120-hour working week in the run up to the New Year, so my brain was feeling a bit fried. As 2019 appeared over the horizon, celebrations were had, I blinked and I missed them.

Christmas was very different, however. No blinking on Christmas day when, as a family, we joined a group of volunteers helping the homeless, lonely and dispossessed to an extensive lunch, generously provided by well wishers from the locality. All we were asked to do was help cook and serve it, hot and on time.

The venue had laid up 60 places to accommodate the guests. We arrived at the appointed hour, noon and joined the 50 or so volunteers waiting in the wings to be allocated tasks. I thought I was there to chop up a few carrots and plate up the chicken.

I found my way to the kitchen and was briefed as to what was being cooked, where and when, every oven and hob stacked to the gunnels with food, all at different stages of the cooking process.

It took me 20 minutes to realise we were cooking enough food for over 200 covers, more alarming, I was in charge.

Most of the volunteers were recruited to sit, eat and share stories with the guests, make them feel welcome and wanted. They really didn’t need instruction, they were clearly meant for the task.

I loved the spirit of the occasion, but would have preferred to have been briefed, with enough time to think and prepare a delicious meal from the ingredients provided.

I turned up with my knife bag and a box of enthusiasm, leaving a chiller full of herbs and spices, going wanting behind.

I came away feeling a bit overwhelmed, had I known in advance, I could have turned the food into a culinary feast, at no extra cost and with very little extra effort.

For days after, all I could think of was food banks replacing high street shops, families unable to afford the food they need, thousands of tons of food wasted weekly, into landfill, not even into anaerobic digesters where it could do some good.

The growing numbers of homeless, broken, sick, addicted, hungry. And ‘us’ who don’t really know what to do, the council who claim limited resources, the government who really don’t even bother to care at all.

So many people in need of help, so many good people willing to help, nobody knowing what to do.

So my heart goes out with a really big thank you to all the individuals, organisations, local and charities who do know what to do – not just at Christmas when it occurs to most of us – but all the year round and in the hope that the Christmas lunch that they provide might become the first step into sustained and meaningful help.

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.