Resident asks: have we lost the ability to hope and see a better time ahead.

graphic community 4By Blair Smith 

March 13th, 2021



The pandemic has affected virtually every person on the planet. It has disrupted business, affected all levels and means of social interaction, put accepted norms of behaviour under serious scrutiny, challenged our concepts of family and friends and required everyone to adopt coping mechanisms just to get up and start another day. And perhaps what has suffered most is that which is most necessary for our survival – our ability to hope and see a better time ahead.

Tree Hope tree

It was not really a Christmas tree any longer but a ‘tree of hope.

On a small court in north Burlington, in a well treed and older neighbourhood there is a rather quirky but harmless symbol of one family’s expectations of better times to come – a Christmas tree that has been in place and lit since the pandemic struck almost a year ago. Truthfully, the tree is always slow to come down and be put away. It usually can be seen in the large front window until Easter. It is one of those eccentric expressions of personality that make life just a little more interesting.

And now, for the two retired and disabled seniors who remain in the house, it has become a tree of hope and will stand erect and lit until this pandemic has finally run its course and life returns to a ‘new normal’.

Unfortunately, our capacity for toleration and our ability to appreciate the unconventional seems to have been seriously undermined as Covid-19 strains both our perspectives and our basic decency. Yesterday, the family received a phone call mid-afternoon from a woman who, unidentified, began with an abrupt “You have a Christmas tree in your window”. Somewhat taken aback, they responded with “yes, we do” and were quickly met with “and you have had it there since at least last summer”.

They admitted that this was so and explained that it was not really a Christmas tree any longer but a ‘tree of hope’, a symbol of better times and that it would stay in place until the pandemic finally ends. The angel that would normally crown the tree has been replaced by a butterfly, pointing to regeneration and renewal.

The response was a sarcastic “well that’s absolutely ridiculous! We have a house to sell!” and the caller hung up. And indeed, one of the houses on the court, now empty, has been the focus of a great deal of activity over the past two weeks as professional cleaners and organizers worked to make the house ready for viewing. Was the caller associated with the Realtor? Was she a member of the seller’s family? I doubt the latter as the family are very decent people and have always respected their neighbours and community. Attempts to call back the number met with no success and, frankly, there would be little profit in speaking to whomever made the call anyways.

They simply wouldn’t “get it”.

The first thing that the pandemic took from us was our freedom of movement and often the companionship of our friends and family. As serious as these constraints have been they will also eventually end. However, the emotional isolation that has also been the product of the pandemic, the loss of intimacy and empathy that comes with physical separation may be far longer lasting and far more damaging.

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6 comments to Resident asks: have we lost the ability to hope and see a better time ahead.

  • Megan

    Fabulous article Blair! I feel like part of the family that “flaunts” hope and love always…pre pandemic, now and beyond ❤️❤️❤️

  • Syd

    I find the friendly giraffe even more wonderful than the tree in the window. It reminds me of that hotel in Africa where giraffes are always poking their heads in the windows at guests.
    What lucky neighbours that have that view every day to cheer them up and cheer them on! Just seeing it has made my day! Thank you for the article, Blair.

  • Don Fletcher

    This is a great reminder, Blair, that we all need to be kind & gracious to one another, even governing politicians (particularly in my case) who we strongly disagree with. Life is short. Thank you!

  • bonnie purkis

    Blair, thank you for this article and thanks to the couple for their ‘tree of hope’. We put up our Christmas tree early in November and have found it a cheerful reminder that even though this has been a rough year, we can continue to enjoy the simple things in life. A few weeks ago, with the tree still in our window, I removed the Christmas decorations and have now added many colourful Easter eggs. We will continue to enjoy our Easter tree for the next few months, much to the delight of our grandkids.

  • Steve W

    Well written. It has both given me hope for the future and saddens me how people can be so unkind. Keep the tree of hope up folks. I wish I lived on your street.

  • g.fraser

    The response was a sarcastic “well that’s absolutely ridiculous! We have a house to sell!”

    And again, you can’t fix Stupid. This individual lives in her own hell everyday, all you can do is pity her.

    I love the Christmas tree of hope.