Rachel Garber

Guest writer John Mackley offers this holiday story:
Nick glanced at Mary over his favourite reindeer mug. Steam rose in wisps around his snowy white beard. The pungent scent of cinnamon gave his coffee a festive accent.

“I know that look,” he remarked, taking a sip. “What have you got up your sleeve this time?”
Mary smiled. “You think you know me so well, don’t you?” She continued buttering her toast.
“I’m not saying I know WHAT you are thinking, only that I can tell you have something particular in mind, and the sooner I know what it is, the better it will be for everyone.”
With that door open, Mary walked through. “What if we dressed up as ‘regular’ folk? Common, modern, everyday people on the street. We could go into town and play ‘Secret Santa!’”
“But, aren’t I already ‘Santa’?” Nick queried.
“Yes, of course you are, my silly Mr. Claus, but they don’t have to know that. We’ll get out your old farmer’s coveralls and a plaid shirt, old boots and a tuque and no one will recognize you.”
“What about you?” He asked, curious to learn where this was leading.

“Hardly anyone knows what Mrs. Santa Claus looks like, anyway. I can just dress like a farmer’s wife and be fine. Then all we have to do is keep our eyes open for families who are out Christmas shopping. It shouldn’t be hard to spot the ones without much to spend. They will be the ones with more kids than packages. Or what about the single mothers with their kids in tow because they can’t afford a baby sitter?”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What will we do next?”
When they arrived at the shopping mall, the pair found the place nearly deserted. The Covid-19 safety protocols had many of the shops closed and most of the people staying home.
“We’re in a RED Zone.” Nick pronounced. “This pandemic has been going on for so long, people probably can’t afford to go shopping even if they could go out.”

“With social distancing, there would be no way to get close enough to anyone to slip any candy or money into their bags like I planned! I guess we’ll have to switch to Plan B.”
Before leaving the mall, they passed by the grocery store. They filled their minivan with non-perishable food and special treats. Then they delivered it all to Moisson HSF, along with a generous cash donation. They spent the rest of the day dropping off anonymous gift baskets on random doorsteps in poorer areas.
“It may not be as much fun, not to be able to see their faces when they find their gifts, but you’re used to that. Right, Nick? It feels good anyway.”
“It feels good, at that. Thank you Mary. What a great idea.”
They were anonymous, but not unseen. Someone was spying on them, and was inspired.

That night, Lois sneaked down the street where she lived. On the door knobs of certain houses, she hung an anonymous Christmas stocking full of small gifts for the people who lived there.
Rhoda peeked out her window, watching Lois. Then she began knitting a scarf for Mental Health Estrie’s HUGS for the Homeless ( Her brother David saw what she was doing, and sent a donation to Moisson HSF (
Younger sister Phoebe helped him with the online donation, and saw how happy he felt. “What can I do?” she asked herself. She quickly searched online for “Continuum HSF,” clicked on “English,” and found a list of local community groups. “I know! I’ll donate to the women’s shelter.”

And so, in this Year of the Pandemic, Nick, Mary, Lois, Rhoda, David, and Phoebe each made a small, secret gesture of solidarity, and all felt profoundly grateful and connected to their community. “Sometimes,” little sister Rachel mused, “small and secret can be exceedingly sweet!”
“Merry Little Christmas to all, and a Tiny Happy New Year!”

A Poetry Break on December 10 focuses on “Snow Flakes” by Emily Dickinson, “Winter” by Robert Southey, “Little Tree” by E.E. Cummings, and “Mistletoe” by Walter de la Mare. It’s at 10 to 11 a.m., is free of charge and open to all – no previous experience with poetry is needed. To register and receive the Zoom link, email Michelle,
Anglican, Baptist, and United churches have all cancelled Christmas Eve and special holiday services because of Covid-19 restrictions. The usual Sunday services are described below.
United. Home worship services continue over the holiday season, and will be available for pickup at Sawyerville United Church (box on top of freezer in porch), at Trinity United Church (bag on ramp door at the back of the church), by email, and by post. To receive service mailings, please call 819-889-2838 and leave your contact information on the answering machine, or email Rev Tami Spires at Pastoral care: Rev. Tami, 819-452-3685.
Baptist. In-person Sunday services continue for 25 or fewer persons with Covid-19 protocols in place (wash hands at the entrance, maintain 2-metre distance from others, use assigned seating, wear masks, do not sing, do not shake hands, and leave via the exit door). The service in French is at 9 a.m., and in English at 11 a.m.
A mask is provided for persons needing one, and a list of all the attendees is kept, in case of infection. Persons with flu symptoms are asked not to attend services. The pastor’s message is also available on YouTube, by invitation only. For the link, contact Pastor Michel Houle: 819-239-8818.
Anglican. Over the holiday season, Bishop Bruce Myers continues to offer Home Prayers at 10:30 a.m. Sundays on Facebook, and at (Worship Videos). Info: 819-887-6802, or
Do you have news to share? Call 819-300-2374 or email by December 14 for publication January 6, and by January 11 for January 20.

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