I experienced a real-life Grinch a few days ago.

Not the sort of person who has been moaning about Christmas since November or dreads the annual ‘wear a Christmas jumper to work day’. I mean, in fairness, we all know at least one or two of those people and while they might lack Christmas cheer they rarely set out to make it miserable for others.

This person is a neighbour who from now on will be known as Grinch because they thought Christmas was the ideal time to complain about where I park my car on the street where we live.

It wasn’t just the timing of the complaint that caught me completely off guard, but the ironic manner in which it was delivered: on a Christmas card, just below the greeting: “Good tidings and joy”. You couldn’t be any more ironic or contradictory if you tried.

To give a little insight, without getting too bogged down in the finer details of this first world problem, their issue is that they have difficulty getting out of their driveway when my car is parked on the other side of the street.

Some people might say: “Not my problem, it’s a public road. If I don’t park there, someone else will.”

But whatever the chances of getting a positive response, don’t do it in a Christmas card! Why not come and have a chat?

After all, it’s Christmas, the season of good cheer! I might not have completely shared their opinion but I would have respected the fact they came and had a friendly word and in the spirit of good neighbourliness, I probably would have agreed.

Elements of this story make it even more unbelievable, such as the facts that they took the time to write the card and hand deliver it when I was at home; they walk their dog a couple of times a day and often see me coming or going; and I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually parked in the space in the last few months.

But leaving these details aside, what I can’t get my head around is how anyone could neglect to see this time of year, above all others, as a time to choose harmony and friendliness over grumbling and affability.

As Dr. Seuss wrote in his 1957 children’s classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas: “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

For me, it’s a time to have kindness and compassion at the forefront of our minds.

Sure, I love gifting and receiving as much as the next person, but I don’t believe Christmas is – at least not in its true sense – about endless (mindless) shopping and materialism.

Rather, it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling, a state of mind that is focused on joy and happiness, a spirit within that compels us to think about others, to be kind and compassionate beyond what we would normally be. That’s what makes Christmas special.

Certainly Christmas is a time of giving and sharing with family and friends, but that spirit of kindness doesn’t have to be limited for those we know. Reaching out beyond our circle to help people we don’t know, or those who may be finding life tough around this time for whatever reason, is just as important.

A beautiful example of this is the story of Enniskillen restaurant owners Donna Rasdale and Mark Smith who are opening their Route 66 Diner on Christmas Day to serve lunch to people feeling lonely and vulnerable. With this kind gesture, they – and all of the volunteers helping them – are giving the gift of joy to others and they will undoubtedly put a smile on many faces next Tuesday.

Of course, kindness, generosity and compassion are not just ideals to try on at Christmas; in a perfect society we would aspire to these values throughout the year, but the festive season is a good place to start. Someone should tell my neighbour.