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EDITORIAL: Bright lights of hope

"If the 2020 Christmas season seems dark to you, if you're struggling with the weight of this pandemic or the loss of loved ones, our one Christmas wish is to remind you of the many bright lights that cut through the shadows of COVID-19 this year."
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It's almost here – a Christmas like no other. Some of us may still be coming to terms with COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting us from visiting our loved ones; many are no doubt cursing a year that walloped St. Albert and left countless people suffering. Others have found solace in virtual church meetings, phone calls with family members and Zoom coffees with friends.

If the 2020 Christmas season seems dark to you, if you're struggling with the weight of this pandemic or the loss of loved ones, our one Christmas wish is to remind you of the many bright lights that cut through the shadows of COVID-19 this year.

We think back to how the neighbours of Jacob's Close collaborated in March to make Noah Lepage's fourth birthday a deeply special one; how residents like Jordan Dore found new ways to connect safely with elderly family members in care homes, speaking via phone through a window; how people held vehicle parades and went all out on their Halloween and Christmas decorations to bring joy to those around them.

These were all examples of the resilience of the human spirit. Even as residents were forced physically apart, fearing for their vulnerable family members, people refused to remain disconnected from each other and instead forged new and special connections they may never have shared otherwise.

Then there were the incredible acts of charity and outpourings of support throughout the year for people in need. Despite the financial hardships brought on by COVID-19, residents more than met the challenge issued in April by T8N 100 Men Who Care to raise much-needed funds for the St. Albert Food Bank. They donated an incredible $140,000 to that cause. Then, earlier this month, they donated more than $50,000 for another 100 Men fundraiser aimed at St. Albert's crisis fund.

The list of charitable acts didn't end there, though. In August and September, St. Albert-area residents filled a 53-foot trailer full of bottles for a fundraising drive for one-year-old Harper Hanki, whose parents were racing against time to afford a $2.8-million treatment that could save her life. Harper's story had a touching end when the company behind the treatment stepped up in October to give it to Harper for free.

And earlier this month, just when things seemed darkest for the St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association (SASHA), Frank Neves stepped in to save the day, donating enough money to replace a stolen and vandalized display of lights around the Foyer Lacombe hospice facility as part of SASHA's Lighting The Way fundraising campaign.

This pandemic has taken a great toll on us all this year, stealing loved ones, eating up time, destroying businesses and dashing dreams. But it could not stop the indomitable human spirit from shining through in our community. That should help give all of us some much-needed inspiration during one of the most challenging Christmases of all.