I often wish we could take the spirit that everyone says they feel at Christmastime and inject it into the campaign season. The kindness and thoughtfulness. The generosity and cheerfulness. And the willingness to see the best in people first.

Two things seem to have darkened our politics over the last few decades. One is that we’ve become so cynical that we can hardly see the light anymore. The other is that we’ve gotten too casual about dehumanizing people who disagree with us. It’s as though, in campaign season, our better selves go off to visit distant relatives somewhere and are scheduled to return Nov. 9.

This week, I want to celebrate two people who deserve both our thanks and a pat on the back.The first is Sen. Susan Collins. A few months back I called on Collins to have her own Margaret Chase Smith moment and separate herself from Donald Trump. My voice was eventually just one in a swelling chorus calling upon her to do the right thing and put her country ahead of her party.

I did that knowing full well that for a senator of any political party, renouncing her own presidential candidate is an enormously difficult and risky thing to do. Ideologues in both parties have long memories, and they relish retribution against anyone who they deem to be heretics against the sacred partisan dogma.

Collins wanted time to see if Trump could become more disciplined and, well, sane. Time has proven that neither will happen.

So Collins stepped into the national spotlight to say she could not support Trump. The reaction has been both swift and animated, particularly from tea party Trump supporters. There’s been plenty of applause, as well, but too much of it has been qualified or muted.

Democratic party folks, having long called on Collins to speak out, now complain that she didn’t do it soon enough. Or they have moved the goal posts to say that if she’s really sincere, she should now support Clinton.

All of it misses what just happened, which is that a sitting United States senator has repudiated her party’s candidate for president. The last time that happened, in any real sense, was with the nomination of Abraham Lincoln.

I am grateful to Collins for doing the right thing for the country, regardless of the consequences to her. I don’t care what party she’s from or what the political implications are for the future. As a citizen, I applaud her without qualification.

Which brings me to my next congratulatory note. I’ve long been a critic of Gov. Paul LePage, even though we both come from the same working-class poverty and Franco-American backgrounds. He is a familiar character to me, and I wish I could have supported him more. But he has made that impossible by holding Maine back because of his partisanship and anger.

But I want to congratulate Ann LePage, the governor’s wife, for her new job waitressing at McSeagull’s in Boothbay Harbor. Ann LePage says she took the job to help pay for her new car and to be around people. Skeptics have called it a calculated political stunt, somehow tied to Paul LePage’s threatened run for Senate in the next cycle. Or they’ve attacked her because they don’t like her husband.

I like to think that family members of politicians shouldn’t be blamed for policies that they have no control over, and that they’re not fair game. Even when, as some feel, candidates and politicians are self-serving, lying idiots, they’re also people with heartbeats, families, friends and a community that they’re part of.

So let’s move beyond the politics to the personal and give Ann LePage the benefit of the doubt. We have the lowest paid governor in the country. The LePages are entering the waning years of their time in Augusta. They recently bought a house, at auction, in the Boothbay region, where they plan to retire. Good for them.

Ann LePage says she loves waitressing, and even though many people will never understand that statement, it rings true to me. My mother was a waitress for many years, when she wasn’t cleaning houses or stitching cuffs at the Hathaway plant down the street. Even when she didn’t need to work, later in life, she wanted to. She loved the hubbub and the people and the feeling that she was of service. And she didn’t mind having a few extra dollars that were hers alone.

So congratulations, Ann LePage. I hope you make lots of new friends at the restaurant and have a great summer.

Alan Caron owns Caron Communications and is the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

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