Boxing Day, Wellington, and thousands of bargain hunters jostled shoulder-to-shoulder at a large city store.

Checkout queues stood 30-plus deep. Elsewhere throughout the store people became pushy and testy, not wanting to miss out on the latest gadget.

We all love a bargain. But this was a shopping frenzy that was gluttonous and obscene to witness.

It was in stark contrast to the day before where, in Whanganui, people came together for an entirely different reason.

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The City Mission held its annual Christmas dinner and attracted about 450 ticket-holders for a hot meal and a chance to spend a special day with someone. Another 150 or more – volunteers – turned out to help serve meals and spread Christmas cheer.

Unlike the commercialism of Boxing Day, this was an event driven by compassion, not profit. It was full of joy and – at its heart – love.

The best of human nature, and the worst, in consecutive days.

The Chronicle asked a smattering of those at the dinner why they had come.

We expected them to say because they could not afford fancy hams and Christmas crackers. But they didn't.

What they said instead was that they did not want to be alone on Christmas Day.

Volunteers said the same thing – families overseas, departed spouses, etc.

The spiteful and insensitive write off such events as a collection of bludgers and do-gooders.

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Those same people hold the city's foodbank in similar contempt, another of the City Mission's important endeavours, along with a budget advice service.

But that's not what we witnessed on Christmas Day.

Loneliness is clearly an issue in our community. And while the City Mission is to be applauded for its efforts, we wonder what else can be done on the other 364 days of the year.

And we don't mean meeting up at the mall.