93: The Friendliest Folks Around

93: The Friendliest Folks Around

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada

The Friendliest Folks Around

When I’m in Canada, I feel this is what the world should be like.

~Jane Fonda

Excitement bubbled in my chest as my sister Jacque and I walked up the steps of Souris Town Hall, a handsome, three-story building of island sandstone. I nearly pinched myself to make sure I was really in this beautiful seaside town on Prince Edward Island.

“I hope they have pins,” Jacque said as we entered what appeared to be a public room. “Tourist season doesn’t start for another two weeks.”

A woman immediately came to the counter and welcomed us. “Are you in Souris for long?” she asked.

We explained that Jacque had lived there a year, but I was visiting for only a week and Souris was the first stop on our sightseeing adventure.

She and Jacque talked about our plans to go to Basin Head and East Point Lighthouse. Then Jacque asked about pins. The woman got us two each, one with an image of a lighthouse and the coastline along with the name Souris in swirling white letters, and the other with the words “100 years.”

“100 years?” I wondered aloud.

“This year is the hundredth birthday of Souris’s incorporation. You might be interested in the play we’re having tomorrow night, written for the celebration.”

I was very interested. I love local theatre.

“A story of the Irish, Scotch and French Acadians here. All local people in it. It will be held in the Souris Cinema,” she explained.

“I saw the Souris Cinema when we came in. Brown building. Big white letters on the side.”

The woman’s face mirrored my own enthusiasm. “It was closed for the last five years and nearly torn down, but Keir Gallery from Charlottetown bought it and local volunteers have rehabbed it.”

A real community effort. This town touched my heart. I thought of something I’d read on the Souris website: “We’re the friendliest folks around.” Maybe so. “Can we go?” I begged Jacque. “It’s a birthday party.”

“Where can we get tickets?” she asked.

A second woman joined us from another room. “I heard you talking about tickets. If you can wait five minutes, I think my mother has some,” she said and hurried out.

She soon returned with a petite, smiling woman who handed us four tickets discounted to five dollars each. I promptly paid her. “I was home from work making pies and fudge,” she said. “If you come to the play, I’ll bring you some fudge.”

“I love fudge. Especially homemade.” I assumed they were having a bake sale to help pay for the theatre’s renovation. I’d be glad to buy something for such a worthy cause.

“I’ll see you then.” She nodded and left.

“She’s going to make you fudge.” Jacque nudged me with her elbow as we walked to our car. “How cool is that?”

I shook my head. “It’s not for me. It’s for a fundraiser for the theatre. I’ll buy us all some.”

“No, she’s making it for you. People are like that on PEI.”

“No one’s going to make fudge for a total stranger,” I insisted.

She shook her head like I was hopelessly naïve, but I was sure she was the naïve one.

We visited St. Mary’s next, a big church made of island sandstone like the Town Hall. Strains of music reached us as we entered, and to my delight we found a group of high school students at the front of the church warming up their instruments.

“What’s going on?” I asked a student when he left his folding chair to get some music from his backpack.

“We’re having a concert. Part of the hundred year celebration,” he explained. “You’re welcome to stay if you have the time.”

He and a fellow student talked with us for several minutes about the concert and about the schools involved in it. I thought back to my high school days when I played the oboe. Would I have been as gracious to strangers as these young men inviting us to join in their festivities? Or would I have stuck close to my friends? They seemed to know they had a reputation to uphold as the friendliest folks around.

I watched younger students and adults that must be their parents and grandparents file into the pews. Jacque and I and our husbands listened to the concert, and then we continued our sightseeing. PEI’s green fields, red bluffs, woods of birch and oak, and, everywhere, glimpses of white sands and wind-whipped waters enchanted me. Could the tranquil beauty of the province have something to do with how pleasant and gracious the residents were?

When we got to the theatre the next night, it seemed like all 1,500 inhabitants of Souris were there, talking with each other. I learned the play was sold out and people were being turned away, and I felt both guilty and special. “Watch for the lady who’s bringing you fudge,” Jacque reminded me.

I shook my head and looked around for a concession stand. When I didn’t see food anywhere, I decided it must be planned for intermission.

Then I saw the woman who’d brought us the tickets coming toward me carrying a small box hand-painted with a floral design. “I made the fudge today, right after work,” she said, handing me the lovely box.

“You made it for me?” I stammered.

“For you. You said you like fudge.”

“I love fudge. I…”

She slipped back into the crowd before I could say a proper thank you.

“See?” Jacque said triumphantly.

I couldn’t believe it. The woman had made me fudge. No bake sale. Just me, ordinary tourist. I held the box carefully, like a young woman holding a bouquet of red roses.

“I don’t even know her name,” I murmured. When I saw her take a seat in the auditorium I made my way to her. “I’m Samantha,” I said, hoping I didn’t sound too bold. “And you’re the nicest person I’ve ever met.”

“Audrey Macinnis.” She smiled and introduced me to her mother Lily, and her daughter Shelly whom we’d talked with at Town Hall. I wrote down Audrey’s e-mail address, and, clutching my precious box, returned to my seat. The lights dimmed as I peeked into it and took a sliver of the best brown sugar fudge I’d ever tasted. Fudge made especially for me. The people of Souris really were the friendliest folks around.

~Samantha Ducloux Waltz
Lake Oswego, OR, USA

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