I cannot believe it has been a month since the three of us on the Summer Staff team arrived in Portland, Maine. It seems like four months ago, and it also seems like four seconds ago. And throughout my time here, I really haven’t been able to shake the sense of admiration that I feel for both this city and the people that inhabit it.
There’s something so inexplicably special about Portland. I still don’t think I can quite put it into words, so the best I can do is explain some of the things I admire most about my new home.
I admire the utter beauty of this state—it’s one of the ways where I see God the most. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t expect Maine to be so stunning, but I have quickly realized how beautiful the scenery is that we are surrounded by each and every day.
I admire the raw sense of honesty in this city. People tell you how it is, and they mean what they say. Coming from the South, I’ve come to see that too many things are sugar coated or offered out of obligation, but not out of actual intention. If someone asks how we are doing or if we need help or if we want to come over to have a meal and a nice bed to sleep in, they mean it. It’s not just out of politeness that they offer; it is a heartfelt and honest gesture. I love that.
I admire the hearts of every single partner that we work with here. While each of their goals may be slightly different when it comes to the details, their hearts all point towards the same direction. They want to help the neighbors in their backyard, no matter what their circumstances. As said by Sue Ellen (the superwoman who runs the kitchen at Preble Street), all we can do is try to meet people where they are and to offer what we have in order to help them up. There’s power in the ability to reach out to someone right where they are, whether it’s at the lowest of lows or the highest of highs, because it removes any sense of selfishness or subjectivity; it’s solely based on a desire to help.
I admire the spirit of every single tenant I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet. Since I work with Portland Housing Authority most days, I have the privilege of encountering people in the community who I would otherwise never come across. While the yard work or painting we do may not seem like much, I find importance in the eyes of those in the buildings we work on. Recently, I have met many older citizens, most from foreign countries, that just want to talk—to get to know my story, to understand why I’m here, to listen and to be listened to. This has been my favorite part about work sites because it shows a purpose for the work we do. Even when it is just a small little project, if I can speak to a tenant that will smile from our work or even offer to work with us, it’s well worth it.
Lastly, I admire the faith that lives in Portland. While it is actually one of the most "unchurched" cities in the world, it's quite clear to me that peoples’ faith here is strong. Coming from the Bible Belt, every person I knew was a Christian by title or by Biblical knowledge or by location on Sunday mornings. In Portland, everyone is definitely not a Christian. I’ve noticed, however, that the people who are Christians exemplify what Christianity really means. They don’t just play the part; they live the life. They are honest and loving. They are truthful and generous. They are encompassing and strong. They are selfless and wholehearted. They are lights in a city that has its fair share of darkness. I don’t think that i have ever felt so welcomed by a complete group of strangers. I hope to leave Portland with a faith like this—one that I have come to truly admire.
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