Even as a young reporter with no ties to Rockland, I soon realized that this was a caring community.

On an almost weekly basis, the newspaper receives notices about benefit dinners to raise money for someone who has fallen ill or been seriously injured. Sometimes there are multiple benefits in one weekend.

Take this upcoming weekend as a typical example. On Friday afternoon in Waldoboro there is the benefit for the family of a man who died earlier this year. Later that evening, there is a benefit concert for a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Citizens volunteer their time to make meals, set up the hall, serve people and then clean up — all to help people they may not even know well.

There are the annual community festivals that are manned by volunteers. The proceeds raised from these events — whether it is Waldoboro Days, Warren Days, the Thomaston Fourth, or the Maine Lobster Festival — are used for community projects.

And then, of course, there are people who serve on various municipal or school boards who are paid a pittance to spend countless hours doing the public’s business.

While I have been well aware during the past three decades of how caring the community is, the recent death of my beloved wife, Nancy, brought it much closer to home.

In the past few weeks, I have been flooded with cards and notes of condolences. Many have come from people we knew in the community as well as friends from back home. But there have also been many notes from strangers. They have offered kind words of inspiration and support during these difficult days.

The power of words is incalculable. The Rev. Seth Jones of the Rockland Congregational Church led a very moving service for Nancy on Sunday that perfectly captured her warmth and strength.

Family and friends cooked up a variety of food items for the reception after the service but when we arrived early to set up the food, we found that volunteers from the church had also whipped up a large amount of tasty treats. I had earlier been worried that I would not have enough food for everyone. I could almost hear Nancy telling me not to be cheap and to order enough food. (For the record, I like to call it frugal not cheap.)

In the end, there was so much food I was forcing cookies and other sweets on anyone within earshot. We ended up with so much food that I have not had to cook this week. My two little grandchildren have been in seventh heaven with all the snacks that normally their mom would prohibit (shhh, don’t tell her).

Now life has returned to what the Rev. Jones called “a new norm.” I’m not quite sure what that norm is yet. I still find myself waking up at night and, for a brief moment, wondering whether this has all been a bad dream.

But those two grandchildren I mentioned (5-year-old Kayla and 2-year-old Emma) have kept me busy. Between work and watching the girls in the evenings, I have had little time to dwell in self-pity. Particularly with Emma – she is 2 and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I can’t bring myself to sit in the recliner that had been Nancy’s place in the living room. The girls, however, love to sit in it, cover up with a blanket, and watch their movies with Papa. I read them books on the couch that is my territory.

But this difficult time has been made more bearable through those kind words, thoughts and prayers from so many from this caring community.

Stephen Betts is associate editor. His commentary appears on this page on Fridays.