Why Halifax sends Boston an amazing thank-you gift every year.

Every year, Boston gets a giant, free Christmas tree as a present.

Photo via iStock.

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.


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. 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.

This is a story about what makes me really, really like humanity.

Let's go back to 1917 and the site of a terrible tragedy.

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.

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.

The Mont Blanc was carrying more than 2,000 tons of explosives. 20 minutes after the collision, the flames found the munitions.

The resulting explosion was unlike anything the world had ever experienced.

At the time, the Halifax explosion was the largest manmade blast ever. It took the invention of nuclear weapons to top it.

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.

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.

Two days later, a train pulled up and immediately distributed a ton of relief straight into Halifax's arms.

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.

Where had it come from? Boston.

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.

Boston wasn't the only city to help out, but Halifax remembered that train.

The next year, Boston received a giant tree from Halifax as an epic thank-you note.

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.

Photo via iStock.

Humans can be mean and selfish and weird; it's true. But we also have an undeniable instinct to help each other out.

Whenever there's a crisis, you'll also find people helping — newlyweds helping to feed refugees or even the U.S. sending an aircraft carrier to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew.

So Bostonians should be proud of their tree. It's a big, physical reminder that when we can help each other out, we do.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.