NORTH BERWICK — Each morning as I left the front door to head out to the bus stop, my mother would stop me and say two things: “God loves you and so do I,” and, “Remember who you are.” The pope’s message last week reminded me of my mother’s words and the responsibility we all have to make a difference.

I’m not a Catholic, but like so many Mainers and Americans across the county I was inspired by the Pope’s message to our nation.

Last week during his visit, Pope Francis spoke of kindness and compassion for our neighbors, for the poor, and those who have the least among us. He spoke of the American dream and how so many of our fathers and forefathers came to our great nation as immigrants and changed the fabric of our country for the better. He spoke of economic opportunity and fairness.

The pope’s speech to Congress was full of inspiration, but this one line struck me most as I evaluated the work ahead of the coming Legislature: “All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity.”

The pope’s message stands in stark contrast to the politicians and the political rhetoric we’ve seen targeting poor families – some who come to our country fleeing war and persecution.

His message comes as we have seen an increasing targeting of the poor in our state from Gov. Paul LePage and his allies, like Lewiston Mayor Bob Macdonald, who is seeking to create a public online registry of Mainers who receive temporary assistance from the state.

This violation of privacy rights of struggling poor families is nothing more than a public shaming intended to marginalize those who already are down on their luck.

It is a disgraceful idea and does absolutely nothing to combat poverty or to help grow good jobs in our state.

At the same time, the Maine Republican Party has launched a referendum that would give huge tax breaks to the very wealthy while gutting the safety net for those in need of a hand up.

Meanwhile, many middle-class families, simply trying to save for a new pair of sneakers for the kids or fill up the school lunch account, will see our property taxes and sales taxes rise. Make no mistake, life will get harder for most of us if the referendum is successful.

When I first ran for office seven years ago, I did so with the encouragement of my mother’s words from my childhood: “Remember who you are.”

As the children of a pastor in the military and a public school teacher, my six siblings and I were taught to make a difference, look out for each other, and serve the greater good. These values are what motivated me to attend seminary, to become a family therapist, and to serve my fellow citizens in the Legislature. They are the same values that the Pope spoke of in his message to our country.

We must look for opportunities to lift each other up. We must pursue policies that encourage opportunity and prosperity for everyone.

In the Legislature, I have worked with lawmakers from all parties to create more opportunity for Maine families. Democrats, Republicans and unenrolled members of the Legislature came together to invest in our students and workers, to provide a middle-class tax cut and to provide property tax relief for working families.

We also passed meaningful reform of our anti-poverty programs that will help struggling families get a hand up, not a hand out. We reformed our anti-poverty programs to support and encourage people to move from welfare to work.

We also passed a new law to ensure that Maine workers have an opportunity to earn better wages by investing in training programs.

Maine’s economy lags the nation. Our wages and job growth rank at the back of the pack in study after study. So many our neighbors are struggling to make ends meet. When we think of poverty and economic inequality, we must not demonize families who need help, we must address the real root of poverty and economic inequality.

As we think about the future of our state, let’s heed the words of Pope Francis and let the values our country was founded upon guide us. Remember who we are.