Editor’s Note: This op-ed was published online on Dec. 24. We were sad to hear the news that Delaney Brown had passed away early Christmas morning. We extend our sympathies and best wishes to her family at this difficult time.
Andrew Kearney of Berks-Mont Newspapers writes about his experience caroling with thousands of others on Dec. 21 for Delaney Brown, 8, of West Reading.
Delaney Brown rests quietly yet thousands of people were outside her house singing and displaying the cheer and love for strangers, l think, we rarely witness.
The 400 block of Chestnut St. is a familiar site to me. For two years, I dropped my daughter off at school right there across the street from Delaney’s house. Chestnut Street has massive trees shading its road, sidewalks and front porches. There is parking on both sides. And it looks thin. It definitely opens up at 4th Avenue where the school is set back for a large sidewalk for the school bus service. However, remove those cars. Chestnut Street isn’t so small any more. Then the Delaney family put the word out and people coming from near and far to West Reading, to fulfill a dying girls wish - everybody get together and sing Christmas carols.
I walked to the gathering five blocks from my home. There were a lot of people on the sidewalks. Emergency personnel and vehicles were abundant. There were four policemen posted in Delaney’s backyard as well as police in the crowd. There were no crowds behind her house. Everybody was up on Chestnut Street. There were thousands of people flooding Chestnut Street and no one was causing any problems. No one. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The Delaney house is about a third of the block in from 4th Avenue across the street from the elementary school and it is lit brightly. The brightest house on the block by a mile. No house on the block comes close.
As I slowly sidestepped through the thick crowd, the energy and emotion changed from place to place. There were families everywhere. Everybody was represented in this crowd. Everybody was smiling. There were people caroling here and there. And it just continued for hours peacefully. Santa hats everywhere too. Christmas dress was the call for the night; green and red clothing, clothing with bells, lights and music, lights on strollers, all the entertaining hats and outfits were there.
I spent a lot of my time just admiring the crowd. It was huge. Besides the clothing, there were people caroling in different parts of the crowd. There were groups putting on little shows in the crowd. Some kids were just dancing in place…really getting into it. Most of the crowd was singing when it was time. The caroling did not catch on throughout the ENTIRE crowd but that didn’t matter. There was no way they were going to get the thousand people at 4th and Chestnut singing with the thousand people at 5th and Chestnut. This crowd was not going to unite in one perfect chorus outside Laney’s house. This crowd showed up on way short notice – some from other states for the love of all that’s holy - and sang to this young girl and granted her wish.
A dying young girl brought 8,000 people to her door step and outside her door 8,000 people treated one another with respect and love. I witnessed it.
Berks-Mont Newspapers & Digital First Media