Gifts from a stranger

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Story by Hillary Di Menna

Merry Christmas, from a stranger

“Merry Christmas, from a stranger,” team members would say as they distributed gifts randomly and without judgment to passersby on the streets of downtown Oshawa.
Improv in Toronto called out to 23 cities around the world to participate in an event, where groups would distribute gifts to strangers from strangers.
Ben Hovinga subscribes to Improv in Toronto’s YouTube channel and answered the call by taking charge of organizing these acts of kindness in Oshawa.
A group of five people consisting of friends and family bought 10 gifts that were $5 each.
“Completely out of our own pockets,” said Hovinga.
Colouring books, gloves, packets of hand warming gel and mp3 player ear buds were among the gifts purchased. Hovinga’s father printed Christmas cards with pictures of his dogs on them and attached $5 to each card.
Hovinga expected people to say “thank you” and carry on. Reactions were a mix of bewilderment and warm receptions. Hovinga shared an example of giving a gift to a couple in a coffee shop. The couple said nothing until after Hovinga and his team left. Running out of the shop following the crew, the couple explained they were simply confused at first, but grateful.
There is a three-minute YouTube video capturing the team’s day and sentiment. At the end it shows a woman who politely declines the gift. She continually expresses her gratitude and emphasizes how blessed she already is, adding she had a granddaughter just days prior. She insisted they give the present to someone at St. Vincent’s, which the crew did.
Part of the Canadian Forces and always travelling Hovinga was in B.C. when he began organizing the event. He will be in Ontario until Jan. 8.
Will he do this again next year?
“If I can, yes.”
Below is a video of the gifts being passed out: