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A Detroit man turned to strangers to bring Christmas joy to a neighbor reeling from tragedy

Man brings Christmas joy to grieving neighbor
A Detroit man turned to strangers to bring Christmas joy to a neighbor reeling from tragedy 02:23

Detroit — In a duplex on Detroit's west side, downstairs renter Colin McConnell said the new neighbors above him had been disrupting his peace below.

"I thought it was the Detroit Lions practicing up there some nights, you know?" McConnell told CBS News.

In actuality, it was 3 pee-wee running backs, sprinting back and forth across the hardwood. 

The children belong to 33-year-old Donald Wilson. For months, McConnell knew nothing about him beyond what he could hear through the floorboards.

But when they finally met, McConnell said he picked up a whisper of something much more.

"You could just tell something was weighing on him," McConnell said. "So that's when I was kind of like, 'You good?' And he just kind of was like, 'Not really.'"

As McConnell discovered, Wilson had just lost Lakenya, the love of his life and mother of his children. She had died of a stroke in August at the age of 39. The two had been co-parenting, but living separately, when she died.    

"Just not having that person here, you know what I mean?" Wilson told CBS News. "You know, I can't be like her."

Juggling the children and a full-time job with virtually no savings was overwhelming.

After McConnell heard Wilson's story, the noise from above became the least of his worries. He posted a video to social media asking for anything to help Wilson's family. Within hours, boxes started showing up on McConnell's doorstep.

It was everything Wilson and his children would need for Christmas and beyond. But Wilson said the best gift of all was that it all came from strangers.

"That was the best feeling, because it was random people that you don't expect," Wilson said. "That surprise joy, it was just amazing. I've never felt it before."

Very soon, people will be listening for sleighbells. But in this duplex, McConnell will be listening for the pounding feet of children enchanted, knowing that Christmas has come.

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