photos: TOP: Bella (left) and Zeke have been very good dogs this year. In Santa hat: Vendor Brenda Leo being her usual happy self. Tanya Goehring photos.

Happiness is hope in action

Megaphone vendors strive to bring joy to a world often filled with poverty and pain

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DJ Joe answers the phone at the end of the day. 


She sounds a bit down. She’s grieving another friend’s death, she says, adding there have been so many this past year. And she’s tired. The pandemic has dragged on, the isolation settling in like a thick, damp fog. She doesn’t see loved ones hardly ever anymore and it’s lonely.

But then a fresh surge of energy fills her voice and she shifts gears.

“What’s up?” she asks cheerfully. “What can I do for you?”

I’m calling to pester about—of all things—her rum eggnog recipe for the December issue of Megaphone (check it out on page 8), but DJ treats the call and my queries with the utmost respect and attention, and I even receive a gift… a lovely story about the nickname her late father used to call his only daughter: Little Feather.

A Megaphone vendor for more than a decade, DJ (pictured at right) is not alone when it comes to experiencing the permeating sadness that has defined much of the last two years. It’s as though we’re all riding an atmospheric river of grief, tossed around at the mercy of forces outside of our control—an ongoing pandemic, relentless toxic drug deaths and natural disasters of unprecedented proportion.

Earlier this year, longtime vendor Peter Thompson watched as his entire hometown of Lytton was destroyed by wildfire. Teresa, who is originally from Hong Kong, was spit at by strangers and blamed for COVID-19. And so many Megaphone vendors died, succumbing to causes linked to a life lived in poverty, which contributes to a constellation of inequalities that impact all aspects of physical and mental health.

While the recent cascade of calamity seems to have spared no one, those marginalized by society are hit particularly hard. With social services and even simple supports like a sit-down coffee shop dwindling, all of our vendors have felt—as DJ puts it—the perfect storm of loneliness.

Yet there is something special about the 175 Megaphone vendors, storytellers and peers working day in and day out in Vancouver and Victoria. It is their remarkable resilience. Their willingness to show up and step up, again and again. Their genuine care and concern for their fellow human beings. And always, no matter what the circumstance (and once the grieving is done), their good cheer.

When vendor Brenda Leo answers the phone, I can actually “hear” the smile on her face and her conversation is peppered with chuckles.

And jokes.

“What’s a tree’s favourite musician?” she asks during my important call about chocolate chip cookies.


“Spruce Springsteen.”

I ask her why she’s always so happy. What’s the secret?

“I don’t know,” Brenda says with a giggle. “I just am.”

Could it be that simple? Could it be that rather than an unconscious emotion, happiness works best as a deliberate act? If we lead with gladness, will joy surely follow? That’s what many of our vendors do, and it’s positively infectious. (Pun intended).

This month, our fun-tastic crew had more than a few laughs posing for premier portrait photographers Tanya Goehring (in Vancouver) and Melanie Graham-Orr (in Victoria). Vendors also shared recipes for a comfort food menu worthy of the roomiest stretch pants: rum eggnog, baked bannock, candied yams and sweet potatoes, creamed corn, bacon-wrapped turkey, salmon soup, Christmas cake, cookies, apple pie and dog treats for the pooches.

This special holiday edition features a double cover, so depending which version you’ve purchased, you’ll be seeing Shay Baylis or Lance Lim and his support dog Zeke on the front. Inside, look for two sheets of vibrant wrapping paper with artwork by vendors Mary Seus and David Deocera—part of our annual #WrapUpHope campaign. To spread some of your own cheer this season, use the paper to wrap up the 2022 Hope in Shadows calendar for a loved one.

Thanks for your support of Megaphone all year long.

From our world to yours, joy.  

Help us raise $35,000 by the end of 2021 so we can continue to support our vendors and storytellers no matter what the next year brings. Please consider a tax-deductible gift at or use the pre-paid envelope you'll find in the centre of the December magazine to send a cheque to Hope in Shadows Society. 


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