View of Semiahmoo historic fishing boat near the pier
Nearing the end of the day, we took a slow, three-quarter-mile walk to the Senior Center down on "H" Street. This town is a sleepy retirement town, with a quaint little main strip, cheap gas for the Canadians who come down, and chicks at the local hardware shop. In our little corner of Blaine, there are no fewer than twenty children running around together in the afternoons, and people outside walking their dogs or doing yard work. It seems that my 'feeling' of it being a family-friendly, safe place to live is actually true.
I had heard rumors of, and then confirmed my suspicions, that Blaine is also a place where people value those who make up the community. Every week, from 5-7PM on Wednesdays at the Senior Center, there is a Community Meal, where anyone and everyone are welcomed and fed. I haven't gotten all the details on how this started, but just in one year, the group has swelled from about 15 to now 70-100 people served every week. There are a few groups who take ownership and rotate weeks of every month (our church, Northwood Alliance, is one of those), who shop & calculate servings, make, and serve the people who come.
Barnacles on brick, stone
As a new resident of Blaine, this simple little tradition was such a blessing to me. The days have been long, and sometimes rough, and our hours between 4:30-6:30 seem to stretch longer than the entire 8.5 hour period that preceded it. As 5:00 rolled around, the sun was shining and the kids were restless and hungry. I made a spontaneous decision that we were walking (quit complaining!) to where dinner was going to be, and (insert bribery here) there was going to be dessert so get your shoes on!
Upon entering the little building, we smelled a delicious smell and we were greeted with a huge smile from a volunteer asking us what we wanted on our plate. After grabbing 3 plates with 2 hands, the next item was finding a place to sit, and this being a community meal, means I find a table [with strangers] that has 3 available seats for me and my children. I found a table, introduced myself, and was lucky that one of the ladies had actually been someone who had greeted me at Northwood weeks ago, who was an outgoing and excellent conversationalist.
Near-most family shot of the old fishing boat
With a few little grouchy faces from Anikka, heaven forbid those 10 beans touch my food!, we had a lovingly prepared meal that was healthy and good, with a dessert on the side, that was on donation, dishes-free, and that we could walk to and enjoy. I love this idea as it establishes community and relationship through a few serving individuals, and the people who come and chat with their neighbors. All together there were equal parts retirees, families with strollers and babies in tow, even a couple tables with high school kids that looked fresh from practice. Perhaps a few of these people needed this meal because it was free. Perhaps a few needed this meal because it met a need, like me.
With those past rough days in recent memory, the people who organized and served tonight have no idea how much I was blessed by this. There was nothing rushed about it, the food was delicious, and I felt like I genuinely belonged there as a few who I'm getting to know from church stopped to talk with me. I could feed my kids dinner without paying an arm and a leg to 'grab something quick', and they thoroughly enjoyed being there as well to run around and check out the 'free' pile after they had finished their dessert. (Side note: As I told the kids they could go over there and pick out one free item each, Ani of course had to come back with a Barbie who looked like she belonged in the Playboy Mansion...so you can't win them all!)
What a simple thing: an idea that someone had to bring the people of this small town together, and how much they have blessed many. I think this just may be a weekly routine.
Photos taken by Stefan with his iphone.