Owen Williams and his wife befriended their octogenarian neighbor when they moved into their home in Wales three years ago.
When their daughter, Cadi, came along two years ago, their neighbor in the town of Barry, Ken Watson, became a grandfather figure, taking the time to drop off Christmas presents for her. Then Watson died in October.
On Monday, Watson’s daughter stopped by the Williams home with a large bag, and Owen thought perhaps she was on the way to take out the trash. It turns out, she was dropping off 14 wrapped Christmas presents her father had bought and wrapped for Cadi.
“I kept reaching into the bag and pulling out more presents,” Williams said. “You could have knocked me over with a feather. It was quite something.”
He posted on Twitter to spread some Christmas spirit. He wrote that he wasn’t sure whether he should open them, check them out and re-wrap them for Cadi – in an effort to give her an age-appropriate one each year – or hold onto them as is and give her one mystery present a year. Twitter responded in a big way, with many saying Watson’s kindness brought them to tears. So many people weighed in about the gifts, in fact, that Williams made a Twitter poll. So far, more than 67,000 people have voted.
Williams, who is a social media consultant, said the majority of people voted for a “lucky dip,” meaning not opening them ahead of time, just giving Cadi one mystery present a year. He said he has no idea what is in the packages, but he’s leaning toward listening to the will of the voters.
“I think we’re going to turn it into a Christmas story for our daughter,” he said. “We’ll do one a year for the next 14 years. It feels like the right thing to do now. If she opens a box of Lego when she’s 16 then so be it.”
He said he was struck by how many people have responded by saying their neighbors are virtual strangers to them.
“The thing that stands out to me is how few people know their neighbors,” Williams said. “People are saying, ‘That’s so lovely. I don’t even know my neighbors.’ . . . This Christmas, take your neighbors a bottle of wine or a small gift, a token. Just say, ‘Hi.’ You can open a new world like we did.”