Maybe Friendsgiving has a much bigger meaning than we knew.
We first started to hear the new phrase back in 2007 and then it became more popular in 2011 because Bailey's Irish Cream began using it in an ad, so the story goes. Funny to think of how or why things or even people become popular.
Starting our 2020 holiday season in the midst of a pandemic brings new meaning to the importance of Friendsgiving. I bet you feel the same way.
The thing we have to remember is to keep checking on each other, our neighbors, seniors, and our veterans who, with too much time at home, can become very tired and depressed. Send a card, pick up that phone, share a good old chat together and ask "How are you and do you need anything?"
Small families really depend on that. I can't thank our neighborhood family enough. Even when we seldom get to see them, they just seem to know when we need them most.
Our neighborhood family really took care of us during both unprecedented elections. Jean Cotton caught me after a 14-hour Monday and had homemade chicken soup waiting for Bart and me to share. I commented on the amazing smell of her chicken marsala on the stove when I stopped over to pick it up and she gave that to me, too, to bring home for the family. Tracy Cafaro and her family sent over one of my all-time favorites, butternut squash soup, after another long day. Sara Awad and family saw John stacking a cord of firewood alone and came to his rescue. What would have taken him hours took just 40 minutes. Talk about unexpectedly touching someone's heart and back, too! Donna and Bob Andronico always somehow seem to know when we are having a tough time even when their own plate is full.
I guess that's what a Friendsgiving is all about even if you can't share a meal together right now. The day doesn't matter, it's the people you help along the way. Let's pick one or two people this week and reach out to them. Leave a treat at their door or share your own dinner. There always seems to be more than enough when we give to others. Kind of like the Bible story with the fish and the bread. We find a way to eat a little less but enjoy it so much more.
John Sherman did that for Thanksgiving. He wanted to provide a Thanksgiving dinner for as many families in need as he could. His first plan would have helped a few local families, so he took a different approach. John decided to break down the cost of a complete meal a family could enjoy making at home together with fresh ingredients. He was able to triple the number of families he helped and they made a Thanksgiving memory together of preparing a meal. John was giving the gift of Thanksgiving but each time he would stop by the office he was beaming with joy and goodwill. Giving has a way of healing our hearts, too.
Another kind of Friendsgiving was celebrated with Small Business Saturday. It was started by American Express in 2010. It started as a way to encourage us to shop local and to remind us to support small businesses first. It's wonderful that they set this one day aside to encourage us to shop local but I think we should just consider this the first day of a national kick-off campaign to remind us to support everything local when we can.
My hat goes off to our local Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. In my humble opinion, they are the very best at this. For years Kirby and I would try to come up with special little "Welcome to Town" gift bags filled with fun trinkets from local businesses. We just didn't have the bandwidth to keep up with it or to invite businesses to join in.
Then the Chamber of Commerce came to the rescue! Our local Chamber took this project over for all our towns. They deliver to each town hall with Shop Local bags filled with coupons and information on local businesses and people. The most recent welcome bag is my favorite. This one is red, white and blue with a star and it says Made in N.H. with U.S.A. underneath. Takes my breath away and our Chamber gathers all the fun items and savings for new residents and there is no charge to the local community.
It is also important to look closely right here in our own backyard to see where we can help. At a recent budget review meeting, our Budget Committee gave us an overview of all the local nonprofits they will be supporting this year. My hat goes off to them for all their hard work helping our towns but also helping our neighboring groups that are helping others. Remember, they are all volunteers giving their time to help.
Special thanks to families like Tom and Jennifer Croteau of Londonderry who spent days decorating their home to bring us all an Otterson Christmas! Free, safe and bright with holiday cheer. Hearing one of my Christmas favorites, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, playing as the lights danced to the music, was a gift to us.
They are doing Friendsgiving here, too. They have a donation area set up to help support our own Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry. Imagine if we all gave a couple of dollars or some change when we drive by. Our dear Linda German, who was at the heart of Sonshine for years as the board chairman, would be so grateful to Tom and Jennifer and our Budget Committee, too. Boy, I miss her coming into our Town Hall. A great lady who did so much to help others.
The best kind of "Friendsgiving" is not just sharing a meal, but sharing what we have, what we can do, and checking in on each other to see how we can help — just to show we care. No one should feel alone, we are here.
Sherry Farrell is the Londonderry Town Clerk and a longtime resident of New Hampshire.