Kennebec Tales

January 3

Linemen, the Red Barn and a Christmas tale of compassion foretell a caring 2014

An old adage that the quality of year can be determined by the first person who steps over your threshold is something to keep in mind in tough times.

There’s an old adage that the quality of the first person who steps over your threshold in the new year determines what kind of year you’re going to have.

The origin is unclear, but let’s say with its mix of superstition, bull and corniness that it’s Irish.

We grownups know only we can determine what kind of year we have — not the guy who stops by today to fix our furnace, or that friend of your brother who crashed yesterday’s New Year’s Day football-watching party or the neighbor who stopped in seven minutes after midnight to tell you you were making too much noise and your New Year’s Eve party needed to end.

But it’s also that time of year when, whether we like it or not, we reassess what happened the year before and start toting up our resolutions, or maybe hopes, for the year coming up.

So who stepped over our threshold? It doesn’t have to start New Year’s Day. After all, the calendar is a narrow measure of the larger world and while we may pay attention to old adages, we certainly don’t let them be the outline of our lives.

Maine as a whole can count all the linemen, both in state and those from out state, who trashed their Christmas week by helping thousands get their power back. Sure, it’s their job, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t work hard at it and we’re not grateful for the effort.

There’s also Laura Benedict, owner of the Red Barn in Augusta, who fed linemen for free as long as they needed meals. She didn’t have to and she could have figured she didn’t need the hassle after getting smacked down by the attorney general’s office earlier in the month for not properly negotiating the red tape for the hundreds of thousands of dollars she raises for charity.

But Benedict supports charities because it’s the right thing to do, so she’s navigating the red tape and stepping up where she’s needed.

Add to that the countless and unheralded people who left their comfort zones to help a neighbor or neighbors during the storm — who volunteered at shelters or took in friends. Or even a smaller scale, offered a lineman or someone without power a cup of coffee or hot meal.

Then there are those who don’t need a time of crisis to help. They take the time to help total strangers just because they see someone who needs help and they know they can give it.

For instance, Suzanne Hedrick, who last month was driving on Civic Center Drive on a bad-weather Monday — bad enough that she skipped a stop to get gift certificates for her grandkids for Christmas — when she saw a young woman walking along the side of road in the slush and heavy snow.

The 82-year-old former Manchester school teacher, who still had shopping to do in Lewiston and was a long way from her home in Nobleboro, didn’t have to stop, but she did anyway. It turns out the woman, Julia, 21, was walking to the Bread of Life homeless shelter on Hospital Street.

“God almighty, that could be one of my granddaughters,” Hedrick said in an email. “She had a terrible walk of at least four miles through heavy traffic, traffic circles, frigid temps.”

Hedrick and her husband, Charlie, not only gave Julia a ride to the shelter where she was living with her young boyfriend and one and two-year-old sons, but also offered $20, which Julia didn’t want to take.

Hedrick called the Rev. Francis Morin to make sure the shelter was an OK place for the family to stay.

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