My wife has been part of a group of women and men at our church who have been loyal volunteers for Meals on Wheels of Wake County for many years. Every week prior to the pandemic they joined together on Tuesday mornings to pick up and deliver hot meals and nutritious snacks for homebound seniors across our community.
The pandemic created restrictions on contact with clients and limited the number of senior volunteers available to assist. Our local chapter shifted gears with skill and ingenuity and went to a boxed supply of frozen meals that would serve the needs of clients for multiple days. Fewer volunteer drivers were needed for this process and all meal pickup was done outdoors at the Wake County headquarters.
Starting in that period, I began to assist Hayden with the meal pickup and delivery every week. The case of meals was heavier, the delivery list longer, and like many of you, I was looking for ways to volunteer and for a reason to get out of the house.
As the process has gone back to a daily hot meal delivery, Hayden and her friends have dispersed to multiple routes, but still are there every week for the clients.
In recent weeks, Hayden has not been in Raleigh to fulfill her weekly duty and I have been going solo on her behalf. Today was a beautiful summer day and as I revisited the same people on the route, it truly struck me what a wonderful service this is, how deeply it touches the lives of seniors, and how good it feels to have completed the rounds.
That feeling of satisfaction when we have done something good for the world is hopefully familiar to us all. But we must be careful. St. Augustine famously said that “as soon as we glory in our good works they are of no further value to our advancement in virtue.”
When I drive the route, Mr. Brown silently answers the door, never responds to my cheerful greeting, and never says thank you as I pass along the hot meal. Others in contrast are unfailingly pleasant, are clearly happy to see me (and/or the food) and thank me for what I am doing. At the end of my route, Mr. McDonald, is so effusive in his joy at seeing me as to make up for any rudeness or trouble along the way. He always wants to engage in conversation, and happily expresses thanks to the Lord and to me for the delivery of nutrition. When I walk off the porch, I always hear, “You be safe now buddy” as I return to my car.
When I leave his house, I always think of the Meals on Wheels tag line, The Power of a Knock.
The loneliness that befalls many of the 18 million seniors in America who live alone is heartbreaking. That knock on the door is the only contact many will experience with the outside world that day. Even those who don’t express gratitude are nourished by what is passed through the doorway. And those who don’t respond to the knock receive a follow-up call either directly from Meals on Wheels, or through family or social services. Meals on Wheels is a senior safety net that helps the entire community.
One of the heartwarming moments of my 50th Class Reunion at the College of William and Mary was the example that President Rowe used to illustrate the heart of today’s student body. During the pandemic, when the usual local volunteer corps for Meals on Wheels was homebound itself, the student body stepped up and delivered over 30,000 meals to seniors in the Williamsburg and James City County Area. Think of how lifechanging that was for both the young volunteers and the clients. 30,000 knocks on 30,000 doors breaking the barriers the pandemic erected between us.
So, if you are looking for a way to give back. If you have a couple hours available each week, reach out to your local Meals on Wheels chapter. They are awaiting your call and their clients are listening for that knock.