This is what gratitude is all about.
Every year, Boston gets a giant, free Christmas tree as a present.
The tree is a gift from the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and has been sent every year since the 1970s. It sits in Boston Common and is the city's official Christmas tree.
<p>Bostonians should be super proud of that tree. I mean, it's a handsome tree. Nice branches. Very tall. No galls or loose monkeys or whatever passes as ugly in the world of trees. <strong>But the real reason Bostonians should be proud isn't about the tree; it's about why they get the gift in the first place. </strong></p><p>This is a story about what makes me really, really like humanity. </p><h2>Let's go back to 1917 and the site of a terrible tragedy.</h2><div><div class="push-wrapper--mobile" data-card="image" data-reactroot=""><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxMTE5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODI1OTQ4MX0.-hlw4pKZ99fyd4be2lg1wSJmnd-fdaU4q7Sf_S3kpZw/img.jpg?width=980" id="19898" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b5655be1edae86a953dee0de5efa1696" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"><div class="image-caption"><p>Image via <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Halifax,_Nova_Scotia,_looking_north_from_a_grain_elevator_towards_Acadia_Sugar_Refinery,_ca._1900.jpg">Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management/Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p></div></div></div><p>In 1917, World War I was in full swing and Halifax was a major refitting station for ships throughout the Atlantic. People, relief supplies, and weapons poured from there and into The Great War.</p><p>Despite this huge role, Halifax was peaceful. But on Dec. 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor. This wouldn't have been a serious problem except that one of them, the Mont Blanc, caught fire. </p><p>The Mont Blanc was carrying <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-great-halifax-explosion" target="_blank">more than 2,000 tons of explosives</a>. 20 minutes after the collision, the flames found the munitions. </p><h2>The resulting explosion was unlike anything the world had ever experienced.</h2><div><div class="push-wrapper--mobile" data-card="image" data-reactroot=""><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxMTIwMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjQ3MDg0M30.lJQ_ZBM48h5LDKDsMDnB_llw6GcHVJ08J8bVm1MhVYQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3cd8b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7a6d8832bd94ebddbd799fda74bb1f03" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"><div class="image-caption"><p>Image via <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Halifax_Explosion_-_harbour_view_-_restored.jpg">Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management/Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p></div></div></div><p>At the time, the Halifax explosion was the largest manmade blast ever. It took the invention of nuclear weapons to top it.</p><p>1,600 homes were destroyed, and thousands were killed or injured. Nearly the entire north half of the city was gone. The city of Dartmouth, a local Mi'kmaq settlement, and the black community of Africville were also destroyed.</p><p>Civilians, firefighters, police, and soldiers immediately organized a relief effort. They fought fires, freed trapped people, and even commandeered cars to act as emergency ambulances. It was long, exhausting work.</p><h2>Two days later, a train pulled up and immediately distributed a ton of relief straight into Halifax's arms.</h2><p>The train was packed with food, water, medical supplies — pretty much everything the city needed. Relief workers jumped out, running into the city to relief the exhausted Halifaxians. </p><p>Where had it come from? Boston.</p><p>Two days before, someone had managed to get a telegraph to Boston, over 400 miles away. Within hours, they'd organized a relief train, sending it north — through a blizzard! — to get Halifax help.</p><p>Boston wasn't the only city to help out, but Halifax remembered that train.</p><h2>The next year, Boston received a giant tree from Halifax as an epic thank-you note.</h2><p>Later, in the 1970s, the Nova Scotian government decided to revive the practice, turning it into a tradition. They take the tree very seriously; they even employ a Christmas tree specialist to locate and procure a perfect, wild tree.</p><div><div class="push-wrapper--mobile" data-card="image" data-reactroot=""><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUxMTIwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTk4NDU5Nn0.S3dqvnLG2bNMcse7y-RV7LIkEmBk1FFEOuZBgqCtvmI/img.jpg?width=980" id="84c5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3affe698b748e75737c34001e70fc1a6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"><div class="image-caption"><p>Photo via iStock.</p></div></div></div><h2>Humans can be mean and selfish and weird; it's true. But we also have an undeniable instinct to help each other out.</h2><p>Whenever there's a crisis, you'll also find people helping — <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/turkey/11783353/Meet-the-Turkish-couple-who-spent-their-wedding-day-feeding-4000-Syrian-refugees.html" target="_blank">newlyweds helping to feed refugees</a> or even <a href="https://news.usni.org/2016/10/04/carrier-george-washington-leaving-today-anticipated-hurricane-matthew-relief-mission-amphib-mesa-verde-hospital-ship-comfort-follow" target="_blank">the U.S. sending an aircraft carrier to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew</a>. </p><p>So Bostonians should be proud of their tree. It's a big, physical reminder that when we can help each other out, we do.</p>
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