On December 15, 2020, in the midst of the coldest and darkest days of the Covid pandemic, the energy in the Midlothian, Virginia neighborhood of Hallsley could have lit up a city. Over 150 residents lined the street to recognize and celebrate a symbol of joy. A simple and safe gathering had been suggested to honor and thank Anthony Gaskin, the neighborhood’s UPS driver for the past 5 years.
Throughout the pandemic, Anthony had approached the doors of these homes with a beaming smile and a friendly, joyous attitude. He exuded warmth and gave people hope. While most remained behind their doors for months, this essential worker took on holiday level volume, working long days like fellow drivers for his and other delivery services around the country. Anthony approached this time with the same professionalism and friendliness that he was known for and the response to take part in a celebration for him was nearly across-the-board. Testimonials were requested and they came pouring in. He had done so many good deeds, made new neighbors feel at home and others feel protected. He doted on children and made many folks feel as if they were his favorite.
Photo Credit: Lexi Hanrahan Photography
In the afternoon, with a plan set to have Anthony come at a certain time, nearly 80 cars, numerous walkers and people on bikes lined both sides of the main road and waited with signs and noisemakers in hand for Anthony to approach. When he did, this humble man drove slowly through the gauntlet, a happy cacophony of voices, bells, whistles and horns. The experience was so overwhelming for him that he could not control his tears when approached by his supervisors at the end of the road. They presented him a lovely token and he received an overflowing basket of gifts from hundreds of neighbors. When he spoke, it was brief; he teased about not wanting those gathered to see him cry, and then he went on to finish his route. The feeling in the air was magical, everyone was smiling and laughing and while less than 20 minutes, it was a simply wonderful and memorable experience for all involved.
The story was sent to news outlets, shared by neighbors on social media and ultimately covered by WRTV-6, CBS Richmond. What happened next was really astounding. A country which was clearly hungry for something happy, people longing to be with the ones they love, eager to celebrate joyfully, and to feel hopeful, was overwhelmed by the story. It spread like wildfire. The story was picked up by every major network and cable news outlet and was ultimately shared on every social media platform. This viral spread has continued around the world.
The main road of Hallsley, lined with its grateful residents, was the backdrop to the biggest national lifestyle story in recent history. This celebration was said to have been seen by over 150 million people by the time Anthony Gaskin sat down and watched his first live broadcast a week later.
Just before Christmas, Anthony and the event’s organizer met briefly to talk about the many continued requests for interviews and quotes. They agreed that encouraging readers to change their likes and shares to donations of money or time for their local food banks would make this simple story of kindness even more powerful. That evening their request was made on ABC’s World News Tonight, where 10 million people were watching.