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When Thank You Just Isn't Enough - Michelle Wells

(Michelle, AVC 2016, travelled as a student to Natuashish in 2015. During the Chinook trips we ask local liaisons to help us with places to sleep and eat. Often we are overwhelmed by the generosity of our hosts. In Natuashish, one organizer moved out of her house for 10 days, so the team could stay there, and arranged for someone to cook three delicious, amazing and plentiful meals a day. )

As I walked through the door of the little white trailer my mouth started to water. The kitchen was overflowing with pot roast, potatoes, biscuits, carrots, peas, corn, and turnip. I was completely overwhelmed, and with my post-travel hunger echoing in my belly, I filled my plate. I should have known there would be dessert: peanut butter bars, snowballs, and partridgeberry muffins. To Elsie, the maker of this feast, there is no such thing as lunch. The three meals of the day are breakfast, dinner, and supper. Many of the foods I had never even heard of before, making it that much harder for me to say no to having "just a little taste."

She has made us bakeapple cheesecake, winter whites, salt beef, partridgeberry jam, peas pudding, onion pudding, sweet pudding, redberry pudding, and dressing (which I now know to be a form of stuffing). I'm putting another spoonful in my mouth, feeling the buttons of my jeans stretch to the breaking point when a little girl knocks on the door. Elsie grabs a package of cookies she keeps on the stairs. She hands them to the child who runs away happy, but not before saying thank you. The children know Elsie because she has run the Sunday School for the last eight years. She has worked as a substitute teacher at the school, and has been involved in community activities that bring the Innu and new residents together. She's been a teacher, religious leader, chef, mother, and foster mother of thirteen children. She's makes blankets for the village elders, organizes community outreach education programs, and teaches a sewing class on Wednesday nights.

When she talks of the people of Natuashish, there is a loving, yet sad expression to her eyes, no doubt because she is leaving in July to be with her ill husband in Newfoundland. Elsie makes sure that no one goes hungry. Any leftovers from our feasts are given away. Extra pancakes were sent to the daycare. Leftover turkey dinner was given to a family with eight children. Dinner plates are made up for the nurses who are on-call at the clinic. In Elsie's house, love is shared through food. I've never been one to say a blessing, but sharing these meals with my team, my Chinook Family, is certainly something to thank God for. Courtesy of our gracious host, I now know how to show thanks for my meals. "As you bless the loaves and fishes, bless the food upon these dishes. As the sugar is stirred in our tea, may our souls be stirred by thee." It's been a pleasure to have met such a wonderful woman who makes us all want to be more caring, generous, selfless, and grateful for all that we have.

Team Chinook 2015 with Elsie (back row, second from left)

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