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On the one-week anniversary of the mass shooting, Lewiston declares Act of Kindness Day

Signs rest on flowers that read "to my city" and "Lewiston."
Raquel C. Zaldívar
New England News Collaborative
Signs rest on flowers that read "to my city" and "Lewiston."

To mark the one week anniversary of the shootings in Lewiston that killed 18 people and injured 13, the city of Lewiston declared Wednesday Nov. 1 an Act of Kindness and Gratitude Day. Residents were encouraged to offer small acts of kindness — things as simple as helping a neighbor with trash, giving a compliment, or letting someone cut in line.

For Ivan and Rosemarie Lazure of Lewiston, the acts of kindness started early in the morning.

"When we were coming out of church, people were looking at each other and smiling,"
Lazure said. "We see them in church, but we don't necessarily talk with them. It was just unusual."

The couple planned to continue the kindness with a visit to a family member Wednesday and phone calls to friends.

Denise Charest of Lewiston picked up chocolates to deliver to a friend's workplace.

"I have someone that has done things for me in the past and I want to surprise them today with a little something to make them feel special," she said.

Some acts of kindness began even before the official day was declared by the city. Jenna Guiggeyis owner of Blue Jay Coffee, near Central Maine Medical Center.

"We have a gift card for first responders and health care workers, that we've been using for anybody who works for the city or works for Central Maine or St Mary's," Guiggey said. "But that was actually from a few days ago, and some people have been putting money on that as the days have gone on."

On the official Act of Kindness Day, a patron gave her a couple pieces of candy. Another customer bought hot coffees to hand out to people who are unhoused. But Guiggey said those acts aren't unusual.

"It feels good," she said. "We actually are really lucky that people to tend to perform a lot of acts of kindness in this community already. So in a lot of ways, I feel like it's kind of a part of normal life here, which is really cool."

A few blocks away at Simones' Hot Dog Stand, co-owner Linda Simones says for the past week, people have been buying meals for each other and stepping up in other ways.

"All of our customers. It doesn't matter what walk of life, they're just hugging people they don't know, police officers, the mayor, everybody, and just that feeling of wanting people to know that they care," she said. "That there's still connection."

That message has come through to people who responded to the shootings, says Paul Gosselin, executive Director of United Ambulance in Lewiston. In the days since, he says they've received notes of gratitude and gifts of food.

"I just think the whole point of them thinking about us and their actions are meaningful," he said. "It's not the food or anything like that. It's the thought that counts and we're very appreciative of them thinking about us at this time."

Lewiston City Administrator Heather Hunter says the goal of the Act of Kindness and Gratitude Day is to spread hope and positivity. And she says it will be an annual event. Unless it's no longer needed.

"What I hope for is that if we do this frequently enough, and we message this enough, it's not a special day," Hunter said. "It becomes every day."