Monday, February 1, 2021

Kindness in the Time of Covid

I'm posting this memory so my great grandkids will know how good, kind and generous people were during this pandemic. 

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know bits and pieces of the story, but not all of it... in particular, what happened on Christmas Eve. 

The story starts in Jan 2020. I was sitting in the basement of the Fraser Valley Cancer Clinic on a dark and wet night, waiting for my radiation appointment. I had been driving myself to and from my appointments, so as I sat in that quiet corner, wearing two blue gowns, I didn't feel guilty scrolling through Twitter on my phone to pass time. 

I stumbled upon a new account, called Louise Does Loxley, which was delightful. "Louise" was watching the 2006 BBC version of Robin Hood, one episode per evening, and live tweeting her impressions, thoughts, feelings, criticisms as she viewed each show. She was 3 episodes in and she was so funny. Witty. Entertaining. Sarcastic. Appreciative. 

In other words, she had me hooked. She was 8 time zones ahead of me, so by the time I checked her account in the evening, it had been sitting there all day, online waiting for me to enjoy. After a couple days, I introduced myself to her; told her my situation and she responded with compassion and a commitment to provide me with something to read every evening while I was undergoing treatment. 

(I feel like I should insert a photo here; this is going to be a very text heavy post. But she has since deleted her Twitter account, our private conversations disappeared then as well. Which is too bad, as I'd love to be able to screen-cap some of her funnier bits and post them here. Oh well...) 

On January 30, she sent me a private message; "Hey. I've got it marked on my calendar that tomorrow is your last day of treatment. SO excited for you! How will you be celebrating? I want to do something special for you, so I'm going to review TWO episodes for you."

(Can I say how every touched I was? This was such a sweet gesture.)

Even after my treatment, I continued my evening routine of reading her tweets, because they were so much fun and now a normal part of my life. Near the end of February she asked me for my mailing address (which I gave her with no hesitation) and she sent me a limited edited, collectible, numbered Robin Hood wrist band. I, of course, responded by sending her some Canadian gifts, including Purdy's chocolates and a book written by my friend, Jenn. 

It was at this point that I started asking her about HER. And I found out about her own personal health challenges as well as all the deaths in her family over the previous year, including her mom and her best friend. 

Covid happened, and both our worlds changed. We kept in touch, and I was aching for her. She was in chronic pain, unable to work, living with her sister, and trying to care for her ailing dad. I wanted to help her and the only thing I could think of doing was sending her some money. 

During the summer I learned how to put dots on rocks. 

And thought I'd sell a few, with all the proceeds going to my British Twitter friend. 

(To be honest, I thought the only person who'd buy them would be my mom. And assumed I'd be sending a couple hundred dollars to England by the end of August.)

MUCH TO MY ASTONISHMENT, in three weeks, I sold eleventy gazillion rocks (to the most supportive friends and generous co-workers) and raised $1800 (which equals one thousand British pounds, coincidentally the exact amount that she'd lost to a phone scam earlier in the month).

Sadly, the day she, Heather, ("Louise" was just her Twitter handle) received the bank draft by courier, her sister was rushed to the hospital, on the brink of death. (She eventually recovered, but her health remains precarious.)

I didn't hear from Heather much during the Fall. But when I did, in mid-November, things were not well in her life. Her dad's health was deteriorating, her sister was failing, she was broken-hearted, and her body was in constant pain. She was under the care of emergency local mental health professionals, as she just wanted to die. 

Besides praying for her, (and asking my team at work, as well as some friends to join me in doing so) I wanted to do something else for her. And I was reminded of her joy back in January, when she was watching the 39 episodes of Robin Hood.


So I thought I'd contact each of the main actors and ask them to send her a card. 

Yes. You totally read that right. 

First step was to go to the British Royal Mail website and order stamps. 

Second step was to find hi-res (high resolution) promo (promotional) photos online. And get them printed at London Drugs. I ordered 4 x 6 prints then attached them to blank white cards. 

I inserted the blank photo cards into envelopes that had Heather's address on them, as well as an English stamp adhered to the top right corner. Then I wrote a cover letter: 

Hi Jonas, Lucy, Joe, Keith, Gordon, Sam, Richard, Anjali and Harry …

January in Canada is cold and cruel. (The same is likely true for England.) And having (breast) cancer treatments during that miserable month makes it especially crappy.

The highlight of January 2020 was discovering the LOUISE DOES LOCKSLEY twitter account while sitting in the waiting room of the cancer clinic’s radiation department. “Louise” had just stumbled upon your Robin Hood and love, LOVE, L.O.V.E.D it. As she watched an episode each evening, she’d live tweet her thoughts, observations, and feelings with razor sharp wit and wonderfully appropriate (or not) GIFs. I was entertained by her delightful commentary from eight time zones away.

After a few days, I sent her a private message introducing myself/my situation, and an unlikely but friendly relationship formed. She was committed to continuing her daily viewing/tweeting for me, a stranger, 5,000 miles away.

Eventually I finished my treatments and she completed her 39-episode marathon. And then Covid hit.

I’m doing fine; cancer-free, working, healthy and safe but my English Twitter friend is having a horrible time of it. There have been deaths in her family, on-going illnesses, chronic health challenges, unemployment, etc. She is struggling both physically and mentally.

The greatest moments of joy she’s experienced this year was when she was watching y’all frolicking in the forest and canoodling in the castle.

I’d love to surprise her with cards from the cast of The Show That Made Her Smile.

I’ve printed off some photos, attached them to cards, put them in envelopes that have been addressed and stamped. Really hoping you have time to add your signatures and a friendly “hi”. I know this won’t change her circumstances, but maybe it’ll provide a ray of light into her dark place.

Thank you for being actors. What you do is important, especially during times of uncertainty and unrest. Robin Hood, in particular, seems to be one of the shows that’s like comfort food for the soul in a world gone bat-shit crazy. Praying that y’all will be working again soon.

Take care, be safe, much love,   



I put the letters into envelopes addressed to each actor's agent. 
And I included a $6 Starbucks card to thank them for their time. 
Sadly, at the time, my local Starbucks was out of Thank You gift cards, so I included Happy Birthday gift cards as well as a post-it note explaining why I was sending them Happy Birthday cards. 

I put the packages in the mail. 
And realized, that most actors wouldn't receive their packages til after Christmas. I was confident they'd get around to sending her autographed cards, but it might not be til the Spring. 

So I checked my inventory of unused Christmas cards, found that I had about 20 unique ones, and asked 20 people who'd bought rocks off of me during the summer, if they'd like to send Heather a Christmas card. Everyone said yes; so I addressed the card, put a stamp on it, and delivered those cards to The World's Most Supportive People. 

And then it was December and my world got a little crazy. I left all that mail in God's hands and went about my work.

Partway through the month, I got an email from a co-worker who'd just opened a 30-day trial account with Amazon Prime UK and he wondered if I wanted to send anything to Heather? Shipping would be quick and free... So I found a 11 x 17 printed canvas of Joe Armstrong (Allen A Dale) for $4.99 and had that delivered to her. 

It arrived 24 hours later, and it brought a huge smile to her face. She placed it in a location of honor, on the wall above the fireplace. 

A couple days later I got a Facebook message from Jonas Armstrong, the lead actor in the series, Robin Hood, himself:


I thought it was a lovely idea. 

Heather got in touch with me on December 20 to let me know that she'd been receiving Christmas cards from Canada and she was touched by the kindness. But, sadly, both she and her dad had contracted Covid. A few days later, on Christmas Eve morning, he was rushed to the hospital. 

Later that same day, on December 24, (1:30 pm, my time - 9:30 pm in England) I received another email from Heather:

And then again a few minutes later: 

Eventually she sent me a detailed, minute-by-minute review of everything they said, and she was just bouncing in spite of her high fever and screaming body ache from Covid. What an unexpected, fun, Christmas Eve gift for her. 

Tragically, last week, she posted the following:

Ugggh. SO much heart-ache and pain in this gal's life. I can't even. 

Because so many of my friends and co-workers have been praying for her (and bought rocks, sent Christmas cards), I posted this update to Facebook to let them know.

AND AGAIN I AM IN AWE of the beautiful people in my life. I've received an outpouring of messages, as well as dozens of wishes to be a part of any care package/gift idea I'd be sending her. Seriously. The world is made up of billions of loving people. And I am 😭😭😭😭 because of the tender way we care for each other. 

Last night, as I was praying, I wrote in my journal: "God? Could you handpick someone to come into Heather's life? Someone in ENGLAND. Someone who would be closer than 5,000 miles to be there for her?"

And today I got a text message from Surrey-Heather asking me if it would be alright if she shared England-Heather's story with her friend WHO LIVES IN ENGLAND and might want to get in touch. 



(Sometimes it takes forever for God to respond to a prayer. Other times? It's like, less than 24 hours.)
(Answered prayer always makes me cry.)

So I'll be putting together a care package filled with love from Canada, and get it over to her by Valentine's Day. Praying that in the meantime, she will feel comforted and at peace. 

Three things I'm Thankful For:

1. Postal services that move letters and cards and gifts across oceans and miles n miles of land. 

2. Kind actors who take a few minutes to connect with their fans.

3. Friends, family, co-workers (who have become friends), strangers on Instagram ... people in my life who encourage my efforts at helping British strangers (and contribute to my monthly feed-the-homeless meals.) I have been blessed mightily by being surrounded by the very best souls. 

4. Thankful for answered prayers even though it makes my nose run and my eyes blotchy.

5. Thankful, that during a global pandemic, we can find creative ways to connect and care. 

6. Thankful for cucumber, avocado and tomato salads. 

Take care, be safe, love well, 

No comments: