Hello, everyone. We are now well into the year, 2021. I hope that you are all finding the new year to be a gentler time. The Orange Menace is gone from the White House. More and more people are being vaccinated against the dreaded Corona Virus. There is Hope on the horizon. But, even with the worst of the woes that 2020 served up, there always was Hope then, too. Here is a short post about kindnesses given and kindnesses received in the midst of the loneliest of times for so many.
If you are a regular follower of my blog you will know that during the Christmas season, my family and I give out Christmas cards and crafts to everyone in our neighbourhood. It is a tradition that started a few years ago as a way to help us get to know our neighbours better (and them, us) but, it was, also, a way of teaching our children about the goodness that comes with giving to others and the joy that comes when a sense of community is fostered. Even though our neighbourhood was under health-related restrictions due to Covid-19, we still felt that it was important to reach out to our neighbours. We wanted to let them know that even though we are living in our separate bubbles, we are all still a neighbourhood family and that no one on the street needs to feel alone; especially at Christmas time.
So, as is our tradition, Sophie made a craft. I wrote the Christmas message in each card. We decorated all envelops with a holiday scene. Finally, we placed the cards and Sophie’s craft in gift bags and delivered them throughout our neighbourhood at the beginning of December. As you can see in the photo, Sophie made little hats or toques out of yarn. We thought they looked pretty cute. The idea was that by giving each neighbour a tiny toque, they would be able to easily display it somewhere. As well, our hope was that the tiny toque would act as a reminder to everyone that they were in our thoughts during the holiday season.
As the years have gone by, we have come to know the people we share our street with and they have revealed themselves to be kind and giving people. We began our tradition of giving without any expectation of reward. We simply wanted to express our gratitude to them for living where we do. At most, I was hopeful that our little exercise would yield friendly banter as we strolled around the block and, as well, that our children (and our neighbour’s children) could play outdoors, in safety, under the watchful eyes of so many excellent parents and grand-parents, all up and down our street. But, it seems that our Christmas tradition has served to inspire our neighbours. Their response to our cards and crafts has been overwhelmingly positive and has been returned to us, in kind.
It seemed like each day, there were one or two cards in our mailbox from our neighbours. In all cases, these cards were filled with words of thankfulness and appreciation for our gesture. But, more importantly to me as a parent, in virtually every card were words of recognition for Sophie and for the effort she made to create the tiny toque. Many folks commented that they still had her glittery star tree ornament from the previous year. They even took time to tell her where they had placed her tiny toque…..everywhere from their own Christmas trees, to their decorated fireplace mantels, to other special places where her toque was sure to be noticed and to bring a smile to the faces of those who saw it. Some sent proof, as you can see from the following photo.
Because of the fact that the crafts we give out are handmade, we received many gifts that were creative on the part of our neighbours. We received honey (from a neighbour’s own bees), homemade cranberry sauce, as well as, handmade maple syrup, too. Some artistic endeavours resulted in a stained glass star, as well as, an origami star for our tree. One neighbour who is into wood working, took a fallen tree limb, placed it on his lathe and carved a one-of-a-kind Christmas tree for us. Definitely, one of the highlights of Christmas in our neighbourhood was an event! Even in these challenging times, we gathered together as a neighbourhood family and went for a socially-distanced candlelit walk to see the Christmas lights up at the main park downtown. It was so good for the spirits of all involved to share a few moments of kinship, even if we couldn’t hug or shake hands or break bread, as it were.
We have one new family on our street this year. We gave them a tiny toque and a card that explained who we were and why we were giving them a gift. They, in turn, replied with a kind card of their own and this beautiful family portrait, as drawn by the very talented and totally awesome, Olivia. “Kid Art” is always something that has been near and dear to my heart so, getting this in the mail just completely made my day.
It isn’t always easy to send something out into the world and have it be understood as what you intended into be. But, our tradition of reaching out to our neighbours with a card and a craft has been received by our neighbours exactly as I had hoped. In fact, the wonderful feeling I have gotten from doing this is beyond what I dared to dream. Our neighbours are wonderful and very intuitive. They understand the nature of friendship and they, also, understand the nature of parenting and the lessons that we try to teach our children through actions, more than through words. The amount of positive reinforcement my girls are receiving touches my heart. The kind comments in the cards, the gifts that are demonstrating that creativity often begets more creativity in reply but, most of all, the simple acknowledgement that our neighbours see the girls as individuals and as young ladies who are growing up into their own true selves. This was brought home for me most by one gift that was slightly different than the rest…..not better but, simply, different, in a thoughtful way. It was a book of poetry for the girls to share. It was written by Canadian writer, Jean Little. I will close this post with a poem of hers that, in my opinion, captures the spirit of what I want my girls to get out of our Christmas tradition and what I hope our neighbours will come to see when they think of us as a family and my daughters, as young women. The poem is called, The Bulb.
I am the fourth daughter in my family. They kept trying for a boy. Since I was born on my Gran’s birthday, they asked her to name me. I used to wish they hadn’t.
Most people call me Mary. And I never used to correct them.
When Gran turned ninety and I turned nine, she sent me a mysterious box. It had nothing written on it, and inside it was this big brown ugly bulb. Mother gave me the letter that had come with it. “This is for you,” it said. “Follow the instructions below and you will see yourself growing up into a woman.”
I was kind of mad, if you want to know. What a terrible present! But, Mom made sure I did what Gran had said. Nothing happened for ages.
Then out of the top, which stuck out of the dirt, sprouted a fat green shoot. I guessed that must be me starting to grow. Then I turned into a tall, gangly teenager. I kind of got interested. There were lots of buds.
Finally, overnight almost, the thing burst into enormous flowers. They glowed. I’ve never seen anything like them. Wow!
Now I correct people sometimes. “My name’s not really Mary,” I say.
We live in a world filled with Hope and Kindness and Love and Generosity. Beauty abounds. The magic of creativity is everywhere. May your year in 2021 be filled with wonder and happiness and good health and, of course, may it be filled with hugs.
4 thoughts on “Will You Be My Neighbour: 2020”
Its 11.20 at night here in England and having just read your post my spirits were lifted. Thankyou. There is always hope and i loved the story at the end.
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Thank you for such a kind reply. Sweetest of dreams to you. 😀
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Great post Tom. Nothing is better than sharing a little creativity from the heart at Christmas. Your girls are building on a beautiful foundation laid by Keri and you and these traditions will be blessed memories.
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Thank you, Jenny. We are trying our best, for sure. So far, so good. The girls are pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. Thanks for being such a good role model and influence in their lives. ❤️