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by Richard L. Provencher  
5/14/2008 / Relationships

Truro is one of many towns with a special tradition at Christmas time. A hearty meal for those with limited means. It's a chance for any community to pull together and provide a good home cooked food fest. It seems to be a trend in too many communities, where many souls miss the smell and memorable taste of home cooking.

And these disadvantaged look forward to such a treat, as provided by one church in the Downtown. Of course nothing takes place without volunteers even shy ones like George. His name is changed to protect his true identity. But I see him before me, right now, carrying two plates of steaming happiness. Home-cooked food. Yummy thoughts precede him, as he heads to tables surrounded by waiting guests.

The church is busy with
Christmas cheer, potatoes, peas
and gravy with slabs of beef,
a different treat this time, and I
am one who will be bringing
a plate your way.

George has a particular problem. At times, it is uncomfortable to have him around. He knows all about it. We understand the travails he endures each day. You see, he has Tourette's. There are times when whistles and clicking sounds, join facial tics as they dance to the tune of his squeezing hands.

Sometimes while walking his solitary route, George hurts his foot after kicking a telephone pole. It's one way to get rid of some mixed-up stuff inside his chest.

But today, well, if he could only stand by like a little mouse and watch himself working. He is so determined to be polite, after taking his meds, all cleaned-up and tidy. Passing plates to new friends astonishes them as they notice his newfound discipline. "Please pass this plate," is a new slogan today.

It's a new pattern
of kindness from me to you
friend from the streets, clothed in
sorrow, sheets of plastic
to cover your heads,
three layers of coats to warm
your souls. I know, because
I'm one of you.

Newcomers living around Truro, Nova Scotia have also gathered in this packed hall for the occasion. The word traveled afar: A Christmas Dinner on the 20th of December, at the Downtown Church. A weekly meal developed over the years, brought in as many as 150, but today there must be around 250-300 in Kane's Kitchen.

It's named after one special person who created this idea, and has since passed on. On every occasion the cooking is finalized under the direction of one dear couple who really care about those without what many of us take for granted.

George is usually too embarrassed to come for the regular Wednesday noon meal, having difficulty controlling his emotions and body movements. To hold a plate steadily, without a spill is an achievement he continually strives for.

Even sitting quietly without being bumped by accident, takes a vast amount of patience. The feeling that overcomes him triggers a desire to fling his plate of food. And in his mind at that misty moment, longs to watch vegetables and main course meal gather flight in their rush to meet the wall. It's too real, too often.

And it really bothers George exceedingly, as he closes his eyes once again wishing to eliminate these images, recurring like a kaleidoscope of past failures. He must. He must.

He planned far in advance to come to this Christmas meal. He knew about 250-300 were expected this year. Especially since announcements in the daily paper read: Kane's Kitchen Christmas Dinner (free). He wished to be part of this year's celebration. Before he understood why, he was almost forced to come. Some kind soul asked him to be a serving volunteer. Serve? Volunteer? Are they full of peas and carrots? he wondered at the time.

Something made him say, "Yes." Imagine, he's one of the volunteers. He made sure he took his medication. And dressed up really nice. Imagine, he's a server, a volunteer. Yippee.

The pastor covered the meal through
blessings, as anxious tummies
waited, no strings attached, the meal's
free kept alive in their thoughts, "And
I'm one of the servers," George
whispered quietly.

There's that dear couple rousting themselves amid the excitement. They're a couple full of love, and kindness. Had a restaurant or two, even more they say. Gave it up, too busy, hard, tiresome. Now here they are, shopping, planning, cooking and for folks like George, a go-getter who has found a good path today.

Voices from each table now loose among the aisles, chairs scraping, tummies tucked closer to tables, condiments passed around, a stream of volunteers coming from the kitchen, heading towards upraised chins. And leading the pack of servers is George, proud among the din.

As George looks around, young and older
ones are smacking lips in satisfaction
getting full, coffee and biscuits
followed by a desert of trifle
and he finds satisfaction in this mansion
of peace.

George is like a sentinel, clothed in sunshine. His face is beaming. His moustache curled in a smile, a rare one. He looks around, finding himself in a sea of friends. Next year, he knows he'll be bold enough to shout, "MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!"

* * *

Richard & Esther Provencher 2008

Richard enjoys writing poems; many of which have been published in Print and Online. He and his wife, Esther are also co-authors of stories and a print novel. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.

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