Last weekend, I took a trip to New Hampshire, my home away from home. I like to drive out there often to chill after a stressful week. Believe it or not, this whole editor gig can get pretty intense at times. At any rate, New Hampshire is my escape. This past weekend, I went for a number of reasons. First, I love the drive. Reggae is turned up, I forget about the week behind me, and am content in knowing that I'm ready to roll for Monday's paper. The Molly Stark Scenic Byway through Vermont makes for a curvy, fun ride and then crossing into New Hampshire brings a feeling of absolute joy. I love home, but I love getting away.
Another reason last weekend was a good time to head over there was because it was a friend's birthday. A whole bunch of folks headed to Nashua to see “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire;” I hadn't been to a movie theater in years. I honestly have no idea the last time I went to see a movie. The theater was really neat. It had a full food and drink menu, the seats were from Lincoln Town Cars and servers took orders and delivered food throughout the movie. Even though I was super tired from the drive, it was a lot of fun.
I stayed in Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire. Not as pretty or scenic as other areas I've visited or stayed, but it certainly has charm in its own little way.
The next two days were filled with an experience that I'll never forget, and is the reason I'm writing this. Two words: Shire Sharing.
Shire Sharing is a voluntarily-funded, liberty-inspired effort to provide meals for Thanksgiving to those in need.
The premise is simple: Like-minded folks join together with a common goal. Food and funds were graciously donated without the assistance of any government, and hungry people received food.
Approximately 1,300 families were provided with food this year – more than six times the number of families served three years ago.
Saturday was spent sorting the food into bags to get ready to be delivered on Sunday. A tremendous amount of organization and work was done the days prior to my arrival in New Hampshire, so I can't really comment on the specifics of that part; but it was obviously lots of effort that went into the project.
I had thought there would be approximately 40 people helping out on Saturday. I was ecstatically wrong. I did a quick little headcount while I walked through the meet-up location and counted at least 100.
The bags were filled based on each families dietary restrictions and ability to cook the food for themselves.
Those not in a position to cook a raw turkey were to be provided with a cooked chicken. Vegetarians were given food items that met their restrictions, as were diabetics. Some bags contained fresh vegetables, others contained canned, non-perishables.
The bags also contained a friendly note.
Each had a location and number stapled to the outside, and the bags were placed in sections organized by town. Some were to be delivered in Concord, Manchester, and Nashua on the following day.
One thing I noted and loved is that children were being super helpful and loving every minute of it. Not once did I overhear, “But Mooooommmm.... I don't want to.” … Or anything else of the like. Groups of children were carrying cardboard outside in droves, helping to organize bags, sorting food, and being absolutely helpful. From tiny little tikes to pre-teens, they each were genuinely happy to be doing what they were doing.
One girl turned to me and said, “This is so fun, isn't it? I just know this is going to make so many people happy.” I just thought that was fantastic. Not once did I hear a young person complain about running in and out from the cold.
With so many people there assisting, there was also time for conversation and mingling. I met lots of like-minded folks, and made some terrific connections for future adventures.
It is clear that organizer Amanda Bouldin worked extremely hard to be sure everything ran smoothly, and the number of volunteers helping out was truly inspirational. It was an honor to be able to help out.
Sunday morning, those volunteering to deliver food to families were set to arrive at 10 a.m. That used to be early for me … now, I was glad I could sleep in until 9:00. Ha.
Upon arrival, there were lots of eager folks elated to help out. I was also elated there was coffee.
Amanda handed out the lists of routes and addresses, including the list of which bags went to which family.
I signed up to deliver food to families with a new friend, someone I had met a few weekends back when I attended Keenevention, an event in Keene. It was suggested that everyone doing deliveries do so in pairs, so one could drive and another could help navigate. For the record, I am a horrible navigator.
Riaz (my friend and delivery partner) and I were to deliver our bags to Concord, just a short drive away.
Before we could peel out, we collected our eight bags from the Concord section (where they had been placed one day prior) and made our way outside to grab the perishables to be added to each bag (this is when I got to ride in a freight-type elevator for the first time … I was a little sketched out, so I don't know if I'd make a habit out of that one). Each of our families were to receive a cooked chicken, a stick of butter, and one dozen eggs in addition to the vegetables, stuffing and other goodies already in the bags.
We loaded them into the car and went on our way to the addresses on our list.
Our families were spread between two different complexes. Once we arrived at the correct door, we'd knock, wait for someone to answer, and let them know we were from Shire Sharing and had some food for them for Thanksgiving.
The appreciation from the recipients was indescribable. Some said, “Thank you,” at least four times. One gentleman offered us a cart-type-thing so that we wouldn't have to keep walking to the car to get the bags for the other folks in the building. That was so kind. Another man had a look on his face I don't know how to put into words. It seemed like sheer gratitude mixed with a little bit of shock – or disbelief. Maybe like he had requested some food, but didn't think he'd get any.
The whole thing made my heart happy – to know that something I was a part of was making others happy. They were going to have a tasty, nutritious meal.
One of our locations had a letter posted to the door, from the Sheriff's Office. On our list, we had no phone number for the recipient like we did for the others.
The letter was an eviction notice. We knocked anyway, multiple times. No one answered.
That person didn't have a home there anymore. Who knows if that person had a home anywhere anymore. Who knows if that person is still hungry.
It made me sad. I thought about that person again the next day. And the day after. Actually, every single day since. I wonder if he or she is okay.
We couldn't deliver that bag. Totally bummed me out.
We did deliver the rest though, and they were all super grateful.
Overall, it was a humbling experience. The entire thing. I love that so many folks were able to get together and help out other humans in need. I love that is was done solely based on donations and the goodness in people's hearts. I love that hungry people were given enough food or at least one meal.
I love so much about Shire Sharing.