Joe Dobbin makes spreading joy at Christmas time a priority.
©Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram
KENTVILLE, N.S. – A kind word, a hot meal or a shiny new toy can bring an unexpected amount of joy at Christmas.
While mid-winter holidays can brighten up the cold and dark time, they can bring stresses of time, money, grief and, for many, loneliness.
Here’s how some Atlantic Canadians tried to add a bit more kindness to the holiday seasons.
Grateful for more than gifts
When it came time Jackie Drodge, a Grade 3 in Musgravetown, N.L., to coach her students through writing to Santa, she decided to put a spin of gratitude on the task.
“Every year we get the same (thing) — ‘I want, I want, I want.’” Drodge told TC Media. “So, I thought, why don’t we try thanking Santa?”
With some brainstorming, the children came up with many things to thank the jolly old elf for.
Three anonymous angels put kids on wheels
The Salvation Army in Truro, N.S., is putting gifts and supplies under the trees of 108 families the church is sponsoring this year. As volunteers worked away at the job, a family of three dropped off a big contribution — 16 brand new children’s’ bicycles, complete with helmets.
“It’s amazing,” pastor Sarah Braye told TC Media. “And that’s what Christmas is all about for us. We want to give families hope at Christmas when they feel they have nothing. This is going to bring a lot of hope to a lot of kids.”
A Christmas gift of care
Theresa Gallagher spends her energy and money rescuing cats in Yarmouth, N.S. Just before Christmas, she was caring for 17 animals and struggling with a huge vet bill.
When she walked in to the vet to discover a holiday surprise: an anonymous benefactor had paid off her last balance owing: $1,613.06.
“It still hasn’t sunk in … that someone did something that nice, not only for me but more for these animals,” Gallagher told TC Media.
Letters bring joy
“When December comes, I’m like a child. I’m filled with excitement and wonder,” 78-year-old Joe Dobbin told TC Media earlier this month. “The snow will come, Christmas trees will be up, lights will be put around, you know, the Christmas cakes will be made.”
The St. Joseph’s, N.L., man has been spreading that cheery outlook by writing Christmas essays for 30 years to cheer friends, family, even acquaintances and strangers who are struggling.
Sharing the feast
What if you have nowhere to go for Christmas dinner? A number of communities have created free events for anyone who wants to eat turkey – or volunteer – with others on Dec. 25.
In Middleton, N.S., the owner of the local pub is gearing up to host his fifth, free Christmas meal.
John Bartlett told TC Media he’s not a big fan of the holiday.
“But I do love the fact that we are able to provide something -- because of all the support we have gotten from our customers over the years -- to those who may be in need or just alone during a stressful time of the year for some.”
A lasting gift
An act of kindness at Christmas can have a far-reaching impact. Twelve years ago, a five-year-old boy in the Annapolis Valley, N.S., asked Santa for a football helmet – just a few days before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, Connor Ross’ wish was granted through the a little community magic and now Janet Ross is publicly thanking the people who made the present possible.
“I cannot express in writing how incredible this was,” she wrote. “Not because I had a helmet in my hand for my son to solidify the Christmas magic we share through our children but because people cared, people shared, people loved and people showed kindness to others with emails, prayers, encouragement and action. “
That gift had an impact beyond good feelings: Connor Ross was chosen to play football for Team Canada this week.
One small Prince Edward Island community brightens up December for residents and visitors in a spectacular fashion, from November until after the holidays. North Rustico, P.E.I.’s James Gallant started the intense decorating trend 20 years ago and sets up every year in tribute to his son who died in a motor-vehicle accident – raising funds for the Children’s Wish Foundation.