The Spirit of Giving


After finishing his breakfast at the Lumberjack Restaurant, Windsor, a couple of weeks ago, an anonymous diner picked up the tab for the other twenty-odd patrons. According to waitress Tina Boomer, “He said, “Tell me what I owe, add $20 a head for each person in here and add an additional $40 for tipping.” The total was more than $500. He told staff not to tell anyone until he had left the building. After he had gone and the gift was announced, one of the diners addressed the others, urging them to “pay it forward”.

Ever since my arrival in Canada, I’ve been moved by the extent of Canadian generosity. In every supermarket there is a container to place food donations for the needy, there are food drives in schools throughout the year, at Christmas time you can take gifts of toys to any fire-station and they will be distributed to children who may not get a Christmas present otherwise. Then there are the usual yearly events such as the Becel Heart and Stroke Foundation Bike Ride and the nationwide Terry Fox runs, standard practice in every school .

Last week we headed out for a bit of carol singing and hot chocolate at the park on our subdivision. There was also a collection for Feed the Need in Durham, a not-for-profit organisation that helps to supply food banks and soup kitchens in the Durham region.

Devastation at Slave Lake, Alberta, wildfire damage
Image courtesy of

Earlier this year, when wildfire raged out of control and destroyed the town of Slave Lake, Alberta, help came from all over Canada, firefighters from other provinces dropped what they were doing and rushed to help, schoolchildren sent their loonies and twoonies, an elderly man from Saskatoon sent part of his stamp collection to be auctioned and the money given to those affected. People helped in any way they could.

The Toronto Star told the story of Charlie Hunter, 13, who drowned in 1974 while skating on a lake at St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario. Charlie was trying to save a partially sighted student who had fallen through the ice. That student lived, but Charlie drowned. A week later, the young boy was buried under a white wooden cross in Moosonee  515 km from his community. His parents weren’t consulted about funeral arrangements. There are no roads between the two northern communities.

Charlie’s parents are in their seventies and in failing health. For years, their family had unsuccessfully pressed the federal government to have Charlie’s body brought home so that they could visit his grave and talk with his spirit. When the Star readers heard the story, many were so moved by the plight of Charlie’s parents and Charlie’s own noble actions, that they raised the money (in excess of $21,000) to have the body exhumed, flown home and re-buried.

In offices all over the country there are always collections going around for worthy causes that are fighting to raise the standard of living for those in financial difficulty. To be poor in one of the world’s richest nations brings shame and embarrassment. The contrast between those who have and those who don’t is so great. Many try to hide their financial struggle in a country where people spend hundreds of dollars a year on extra-curricular activities for their children, lavish money on seasonal outdoor decorations for their homes and think nothing of pulling into Tim Horton’s for a coffee. Perhaps it’s because Canadians recognise how fortunate they are, that they are so generous.

In these modern times, where the human race is cloaked in cynicism and mistrust, it’s re-affirming to see that there are still people capable of empathy and generosity. You Canadians are a big-hearted bunch. Long may you stay that way!

Merry Christmas everyone. Wherever you are, whatever you believe, follow the example of the gentleman in the diner, and spread the happiness and the love that this season stands for.

Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


    1. Lol! Merry Christmas Linda, and thanks for the comment. Loonies and toonies are the names given to one and two-dollar coins. Loonies are so-called because they carry an image of the Common Loon, a well-known bird here in Canada, and toonies is a mix of “two” and “loonie”! 🙂
      Now that I have better equipped you to win at Trivial Pursuit, have a great Christmas! xxx

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