Jen’s World: Thank you to those who go the extra mile
It’s March, which means it’s time for the Jen’s World Chester Awards — my annual column recognizing Rochesterites who exhibit a kindness, a generosity of spirit, or a plain old above-and-beyondness that may not make the evening news, but that has warmed my heart.
Since 2007, I’ve dedicated this column to recognizing these Rochesterites who deserve a round of applause, but who probably don’t get one.
I run into these people every day.
They’re the drivers who offer smiles from their cars while they wait for me to dash across their path to the coffee shop.
They’re the store clerks who remember my name.
The neighbor who plowed our sidewalk when we just couldn’t lift another shovel-full. The woman who said, “No, after you,” when we arrived at the restaurant door at the same time — and then told me she liked my jacket.
Chester Awards are for the people and groups — and they’re out there, every day — making me feel like there’s light amidst all the darkness we hear about in the news.
Earning a Chester Award doesn’t garner these recipients fame, fortune, or even a framed certificate. But I do hope that this little recognition makes them feel as good as they’ve made me feel.
Without further ado, the 2019 Chester Awards go to…
Marie Maher: Marie is the executive director of the Rochester Male Chorus, a retired educator/psychologist, and, I should add, a hat aficionado. In recent years, Marie has included my writing classes in a couple of grant-funded programs she’s managed for local organizations. I’ve never heard Marie complain about the work she puts into writing these grants — even though I wouldn’t blame her if she did. (Grant writing is hard work!) Instead, she generously and cheerfully donates her time in order to bring arts programing to Rochester. And she’s introduced me to wonderful people and stories in the process.
The ASP team at Christ United Methodist Church: Each summer, this group of adults coordinates — and travels to Kentucky with! — a busload of teenagers for Appalachia Service Project (ASP). If that weren’t enough, they then work alongside these high school students to make homes “warmer, safer and drier” for families in need. Over the course of a week, this team works long, hard hours under the sun, putting on a new roof or attaching siding or repairing a floor — and most of them use their vacation time to do it. Along the way, they’re teaching kids, like mine, important life lessons.
Donna Anderson: For nearly a year now, 99-year-old Donna has trusted me to share her stories of growing up in southeastern Minnesota with you. It’s not easy to share your history with a person who is recording it. Being interviewed isn’t always comfortable. But Donna has been gracious and open and an incredible, detailed storyteller. She really is an interviewer’s dream. I feel grateful for every conversation we have, and even more grateful that she’s become a friend.
Dunn Bros. North staff: You expect baristas to be friendly and make a delicious latte. That’s a given. But I’m awarding the Dunn Bros. North staff with a Chester because of how frequently they go beyond that norm. The number of customers they call by name alone is staggering. And then there’s this: I’ve forgotten my purse at Dunn Bros. no fewer than four times in the last couple of years. (Clearly, it’s a personal problem.) The last time, one of their staff sent me a Facebook message asking if I’d forgotten it before I’d even realized I had. (Thanks, Eric!) Now that’s service.
I wish I could give each of this year’s Chester Winners fame and fortune — or, at the least, a fancy plaque. Instead, they’re getting my sincere thanks and admiration, and hopefully some warm fuzzies from knowing that they’re appreciated.
And now, dear reader, it’s your turn to spread the love and award your own Chester. Is there a neighbor, crossing guard, or sales clerk in your life who goes above and beyond? Who makes you feel special or regularly brightens your day? I want to hear about it.
Send your Chester nominations (briefly explaining the who, where, and why) to email@example.com. I’ll randomly choose several nominations to print in a future column. I can’t wait to see who inspires you.