Merry Christmas to all our Acantha readers and advertisers. We wish you the very best this holiday season. We want to say a special thank you to all the many people and businesses who have supported us through the year. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, it changed how we as reporters and photographers could cover our communities. To keep our staff safe, we began covering meetings via video conferencing software and in some cases by speaker phone. We were taught in journalism school to get out and hit the pavement, not to rely on telephone interviews to get our source material. COVID-19 stood that training on its head, and forced us to rely on the telephone to do interviews and gather data.

We also have tried to curtail how much our staff is out in group settings. We carefully covered high school sports with one photographer at each game, with reporters staying home and watching online (not the best option), and in some cases, when we could not attend an event, we relied on school teachers and staff members and parents to take and send us pictures.

We want each of you who have helped us out in this way to know that you are our Christmas angels, having given us the gift of your time and talents to help make sure that the Acantha has pictures to go with stories. We could not have made it through this year without your generously given help.

Christmas of 2020 is not going to be the brightest for many of us. Business owners in Choteau and throughout rural Montana are suffering because of COVID-19 restrictions that have been put into place to protect the public health and the welfare of everyone. Complying with these restrictions is the right thing to do, but keeping our communities safe comes with a high price for local merchants and restaurant operators. Please consider supporting these local businesses with your last-minute Christmas shopping dollars.

As we think about gifts that will be under the tree this week, our thoughts turn to the intangibles, all the things that are gifts in our lives but that we cannot see or touch, but perhaps can only feel. In this year, this terrible year of sickness and loss, those intangible gifts are what will see us through: The love of family and community; the generosity of neighbors; the innocent of children; the strength of faith; the sweet smile of a fresh pine tree; the sound of geese honking in the early morning sky and the yipping of coyotes serenading the moon.

These are the things we must all focus on as we approach Christmas. These are the meaningful things: laughter with friends (even over Zoom), crisp morning walks, the cooing of a new baby, the sound of a dearly beloved parent’s voice on the phone,

the soft pressure of a dog’s head on your knee, the throaty nicker of your favorite horse and the whiskery kiss he gives your hand as you feed him a treat.

If we could recommend just one gift that every person on earth could give every one else, we would suggest kindness. The world is a tough place to be right now. People are suffering from illness, grief and loss, poverty and discrimination. Every single one of us would be blessed if we encountered more kindness. So please, as you ponder the meaning of this holiday, think of how being a kinder person can change your little corner of the world. Give the gift of kindness to your friends and your enemies. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself.

Merry Christmas, dear readers and customers.