The angel appeared on the cold Camden sidewalk.

Featured, Human Interest

By Barbara A. Walsh, The Maine Monitor

Chef Jordan Benissan stood outside his restaurant after another dismal night of business. As COVID-19 infections surged, customers disappeared.

Benissan’s staff had shrunk to himself and a dishwasher. He worried about paying his monthly $2,000 rent.  

As the days grew shorter and colder, the 62-year-old chef worked some shifts without earning a penny.

On this December evening, the stranger that Benissan would later call an angel approached him.

A business owner herself, Bettina Doulton understood Benissan’s heartache. She had to close her wine tasting room in September because of the pandemic.

She often walked by Benissan’s restaurant and worried about its empty dining room. “I’ve got to start getting takeout to help him,” she told herself.

When Doulton drove by on this Sunday evening and saw the chef outside, she turned her car around.

“I didn’t have a plan,” Doulton said. “I just wanted to give him a little bit of hope.”

After asking to see his menu, she handed the chef her credit card.

“I want to buy 50 meals,” Doulton told him. “and I want you to give them away to people to try your food.”

Bettina Doulton hugs chef Jordan Benissan after she spontaneously paid for 50 meals and asked asked him to give them to people for free to familiarize them with his distinctive African food. Photos by Fred J. Field.

Benissan was speechless. He hugged Doulton and rang up the $2,000 in free meals and another $500 that Doulton threw in for tips.  

“If I can just have some good happen through this moment,” he thought, “there is hope.”

Hope and despair. Heartbreak and courage. Small miracles and stunning kindness. Heroes stepping up in factories, hospitals, neighborhood kitchens, lobster boats, funeral parlors and tiny town churches. It has been a year of astonishing goodwill and soul-crushing loss.

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The pandemic has shuttered businesses, stolen lives, sparked depression, anger and dissension. But out of the darkness there have been many flames of light. These are the stories of Mainers, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Just imagine what a great world it might be if each of us were an angel in some special way? That could be the best gift we might ever give.

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