On Thanksgiving last week I decided to volunteer over at Most Holy Trinity Church serving individuals who needed a hot meal. This was a pleasant break from tradition for me. Throughout my childhood I distinctly remember waking up really excited to start helping in the kitchen while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a day to focus on your family. The one day of the year that you set aside everything else to make the one thing that should be most important in your life, the top priority.
But this year I wanted to give back somehow to others outside of my inner circle. On this day I woke up and drove down to Main Street to see what I could do at a different tradition that has been years running – the Saco community meal program.
The organizers of this yearly venture deserve a lot of credit in providing meals to hundreds of needy people. There were dedicated volunteers right alongside me that were on what I would consider their fourth or fifth tour of duty helping out at this gathering of open charity. There were times where the number of volunteers outnumbered the people eating, but that speaks volumes to how many feel passionate about ensuring our neighbors don’t go hungry.
There was one interaction in particular that stuck in my mind. It was during the process of cleaning up and closing everything down. Two men, one elderly, the other middle aged, came into the church to see what was left after almost four hours of free food service. For those of us who’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of hunger, this was one of those cases. I’ve never seen a group of people rush around a common purpose in such a quick and unified manner before. This was after learning that the one man was in need of food to last a week or he might have to go hungry. One volunteer rushed to the fridge to grab the trays of leftover food already packed away. Another went for the desserts to grab pies to give. Another to the bags of bread. A mother directed one of her sons to grab a large box to place all of the food in. We piled the food into a leftover tray and a large cardboard banana box for each man and made sure they had what they needed for a good week of sustenance.
It was one of those instances that you see happen in slow motion. You just stand there in awe of the heartfelt compassion in the room. It didn’t matter where these individuals came from or what their circumstances were, it was all about helping in their time of need. This was where mankind showed their true colors; something that can be hard to come by nowadays.
If there was one thing that drives me to be a better person and ultimately a better legislator, it would be experiences like this. It brings issues like poverty down to its most humanistic level. It makes you feel. Too often in political debate the human element is lost to numbers on a spreadsheet.
Justin Chenette is the state representative-elect for District 134 in Saco. You can get legislative updates about the work out of the 126th Legislature at Facebook.com/ justinforsaco, Twitter.com/justinchenette, and at www.justinchenette.com.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco