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‘Call someone and say you love them’: actor Tom Jackson on how to change the world

Canadian actor and philanthropist Tom Jackson is bringing his new production 'Stories, Songs & Santa Causes' to New West’s Massey Theatre.
Tom Jackson will perform in New West's Massey Theatre for the first time on Nov. 25.

Canadian actor, musician and activist Tom Jackson has a solution to better the world. And it has a lot to do with telling someone that you love them.

“I love you,” he says over a call, with a pregnant pause between each word. “I want you to realize and think and accept this,” he adds in a serious tone.

The philanthropist who has won several humanitarian awards and raised millions of dollars towards food banks and disaster relief, is set to go on a tour of his new production ‘Stories, Songs & Santa Causes’ — inspiring people to dance, love and help each other. 

With the new production, Jackson plans to raise money for local organizations in each of the 14 venues (New Westminster is second on the list) that he is set to perform at. 

It is the first time that the celebrity, who has featured in shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Law & Order, and Outlander, is performing in New West, and at his very first show in the city, he plans to not just entertain the local people but also help out a local food support program, Don’t Go Hungry

"The interesting thing that I've discovered is we don't know the value of a gift," says Jackson. 

"If I help someone, and they pay it forward, and the person they help pays it forward, and so on — and if that last person in the chain helps somebody you love, they don't know what the value of that gift is. The value in my mind is 'priceless'!"

So this season, he urges everyone to ask 'What's your Santa cause?' instead of 'What's your Santa wish?'

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

What can the audience expect at your new production 'Stories, Songs and Santa Causes'?

We hope that what they take away is a lot of joy, happiness and a spiritual lift — not in a religious sense, but one that gives us a sense that we're not alone out there, you know? The COVID incident that locked us down for two years, and continues to have its effect, has kept us in isolation... we have to find a way within ourselves to find joy.

And perhaps there are some minstrels out there that can help us do that. That's really what we hope people take away from the show.

(The audience can expect)... a lot of stories that were world experiences for me, that in a lot of ways were part of the formulation of this project (which will also feature Country Music Association Hall-of-Fame producer, Tom McKillip, and award-winning producer/multi-instrumentalist, John MacArthur Ellis).

And the reality is that the shows that we've done over all these years have saved lives. And raised money for organizations…that amount is in around the area of $260 million. All of that goes into your community. 

I work with people who are much more skilled than I am; hands on, helping other folks. We do what we do, and we hope to inspire others to do what they do. 

You are the ambassador for the Canadian Red Cross, Officer of the Order of Canada, and Juno Humanitarian Award winner. When did you decide to use your talent to start helping others?

I have to go back to 1988 (around the time, Jackson said he was living in a crawl space, and reportedly addicted to drugs). And I got a visitor, real or unreal.

The visitor said to me, 'I'm going to send you an angel. That angel is going to be worse off than you. And if you help that angel, I'm going to help you.' 

I asked, 'So how will I know this angel?' I thought I am going to find somebody with wings out there. 'Well, you won't,' said the visitor. 

So I took the challenge, and I went looking for an angel. What I discovered was there were a whole lot of people out there that were a lot worse off than I was. So I kept looking, and ultimately, that brought me here to you today.

You started The Huron Carole in 1987, collaborating with musicians and performing across the country, while also raising money towards food banks and disaster relief. How challenging is it to keep such fundraising campaigns going?

It's a source of oxygen. So there's no burden to it. It’s like oxygen for me, and without that I don't know what I would do. 

'Stories, Songs and Santa Causes' is expected to have signature Christmas music and sing-along tunes...What was Christmas like for you as a kid?

My mother was iconic, in that, she was gregarious, flamboyant. She was full of life, full of colour... full of dance. My mom would dance until she sweat. And the reason she did that is that when that happens, there's a place right next to your heart that might be occupied by a toxic trickster. And when you sweat, that toxic trickster gets extricated. And it allows us the space wherein we don't have to forget, but can forgive. 

My dad, on the other hand, was a man of peace. Whenever my dad walked into a room, the room changed. I mean, you could say that about everybody. But it changed in the sense that there's something different in the air that brought us peace — just by the way he moved, how he walked and talked. It was something that's indescribable, but inescapable. 

So, on Christmas, as kids, we did everything every other child does.

We tried to sneak under the tree before anybody's up and take a look at what's there. And, of course mom and dad were always looking around the corner, they knew we were going to be there and they put out the milk and cookies; and somehow it's gone in the morning. And, of course, we had no idea who took it! (laughs)

Did you ever have a Santa wish list?

Oh, I'm sure I did.

But let me tell you a story about what happened at one of our shows in Winnipeg — this would have been probably 20 years ago. I ended the show, and there was a woman there that was playing in a band that was in the show. Her two children were with her. One was maybe five and the other, probably, seven.

I asked the older boy, ‘What do you have on your list for Santa this Christmas?’ And he said, ‘I don't believe in Santa Claus.’ I said, ‘What do you mean you don't believe in Santa Claus? I am Santa Claus.' He said, ‘No, you're not.’ 

So I said, ‘Well, I know I can't just walk around wearing a red suit and have a beard all the time. But I am Santa Claus. Let me show you — why don't you give me a list?’ 

So he and his brother made a little list. I said I'll give them the top one on the list — it was a train set. For their mom, buying a train would be a challenge. So I decided to buy a train set and have it sent up — they lived in Manitoba, and I was in Winnipeg.

On Christmas Eve, those little boys got what they wished for. Every year, at Christmas time, I get a Christmas card from two young men thanking Santa for the gift. Every year! 

You have done an online series exploring music and mental health — Almighty Voices — and also launched a journal called '364: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Times' that includes sayings to help one stay positive. But how do you stay positive? Do you ever get frustrated?

I guess I do from time to time.

But I do practise this whole idea that you can always help. I don't want to make this sound unreal, but when we're not feeling well, we have good things to lean on. One of them is you could dance.

The last time you laughed about 200 times a day was probably when you were two years old. So find things that make you laugh.

Find a book that's good to read, that makes you feel good. Go learn something new.

And then, there's one more: Love. 

Not the word, but the verb. So when you think about Christmas, don't think about Christmas, be Christmas. Be the verb. Christmas is a verb. 

With your productions, which comes first — the want to help someone out, or the creative aspect of how it should be done?

I think neither of those. It's the fact that it would give the audience an opportunity to see the value and become one of those 'angels without wings' that sees the value of helping someone else.

And we all can do that. We all should do that. We all know that we should do it.  

I was in the mall yesterday, and someone asked me, ‘What do you do?’ I said, ‘I save lives.'

I try to make people healthy. Happy is healthy, healthy is happy.

I asked, ‘Are you curious to know what that means?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Do me a favour and close your eyes for just a second.'

(To demonstrate it, he requested this reporter to do the same) 

Now, journey up through the roof, through the atmosphere, through the stratosphere, and go in behind the dark side of the moon and come down the other side, through the stratosphere, the atmosphere, and land in a place that makes you happy.

We can't stay long because we have to finish this interview. So while you're there, just feel what it feels like to be there.

(After just a couple of seconds) Okay, we gotta go. 

So back up to the atmosphere, the stratosphere around the moon back to the stratosphere, the atmosphere, and back into where you're sitting right now.

Do you not feel just a little bit better than you did 45 seconds ago?

Yeah, a bit.

So you got it! So now, when we finish this phone call, please do me another favour. Pick up your phone, phone somebody and let them know that you love them. And ask them to do the same.

So within 60 seconds of the time you hang up this phone, we will have changed the world.


Watch Tom Jackson's production Stories, Songs and Santa Causes at Massey Theatre on Nov. 25 at 7.30 p.m. Tickets are priced between $47 and $57. Book at Massey Theatre website.

And donations to Don’t Go Hungry can be made through Canada Helps As Christmas approaches, they are need of personal care items, household cleaners, canned proteins, and children’s snacks. Audience members are encouraged to bring food and other items, and drop them off at the collection boxes at the Massey Theatre lobby. 

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