Roosevelt, Lincoln, May Baskets and The Bible

By Rev. H. Kenneth Dutille Jr. | May 14, 2020
Rev. H. Kenneth Dutille Jr.

As I readied this week’s column I thought back about growing up in Greene, a town in Androscoggin County, during the 1950s and 1960s. I was young and somewhat innocent. One tradition that I remember folks talking about when the end of April was approaching was hanging May Baskets. Winters back in the day were harsh and long and Dad would have to shovel the coal to keep the old county house from freezing. Whispers through the town and church began circulating as to who might be on their May Basket list.

According to the National Public Radio: “Through the 19th and 20th centuries, May Basket Day celebrations took place all across the nation:

A reporter in Sterling, Ill who wrote for the town's newspaper, The Gazette, explained in 1871 the seasonal ritual this way: “A May-basket is — well, I hardly know how to describe it; but 'tis something to be hung on a door. Made of paper generally, it contains almost anything, by way of small presents you have in mind to put in it, together with your respects, best wishes — love, perhaps. It is hung after dark at the door of anybody the hanger fancies. When done, the said hanger knocks and scampers.”

This not only was a fun family event and taught kids how to keep a secret and focus our attention on others instead of putting oneself first. But as many traditions this also kind of fell by the wayside because people found it necessary to work more. The “keeping up with the Jones” syndrome seemed to come into play at times, thus the feeling that we need more money. Conveniences also took their place too, making us think that “instant is better.”

This coronavirus, as serious as it has been and still is, has made us stop and realize that we have people around us and stop to think what might their needs be or how can I help them? The news reports show neighbors singing together, clanging pans and hanging hearts on medical workers mailboxes and even clapping in a parade of vehicles for a birthday guest or encouraging first responders.

As we work through each day of this pandemic lets continue to put a friend, neighbor or even someone we do not know first. But be sure the social distancing is kept in practice too.

While the world is in turmoil because of the coronavirus pandemic, we can rest in God’s promise to never abandon us during troubling times.

As we do our best to follow the protocols set up by our local officials, let us proceed in the spirit of the old May Basket Tradition, exhibiting respect, best wishes — love, for our first responder, health providers our family and friends.

Our nation was paralyzed in the economic fear of the Great Depression and President Franklin Roosevelt during his 1933 inaugural address said: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Abraham Lincoln, something of an intellectual himself, was a fan of the old Persian saying, “These things will pass,” because it is "true and appropriate in all times and situations," Lincoln said. "How much it expresses! How consoling in the depths of affliction!" Right now, my friend, you might be thinking that things will never get any better but today will fade away.

Second Corinthians 4:16-18 talks about problems being short-lived. “Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”(The Message Bible)

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Let each of us stay focused on the blessings we receive each day, regardless of how great or small they might be.

Keep strong and we will get through this together.


Rev. H. Kenneth Dutille Jr. of Rockland, is a retired minister with the Maine Sea Coast Mission and does offer preaching. He has been chosen twice to be Chaplain of the Day for the United States Senate.

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