It was Louise’s idea to volunteer making meal deliveries for Loaves and Fishes today, when a lot of the regular drivers are off because of the holiday. I was my typically lovely self: “Really? You need one more thing to do? Take a day off for once.” She reminded me how the service helps frail elders and others stay in their homes, and that the delivered meal might be their only food for the day.
This is from their website:
Meals on weekends and holidays are designed to serve Meals-On-Wheels recipients who are most at risk of malnutrition because of lack of physical mobility, mental acuity and/or income. Those people who have no other resources for obtaining food on the weekends (such as friends or family) are eligible for this program.
- Frozen weekend meals are available to Meals-On-Wheels recipients who are able to reheat meals themselves. These meals are delivered on Fridays and recipients must reheat them.
- Hot weekend meals are available to Meals-On-Wheels recipients (Multnomah County only) who are at a higher risk of malnutrition because of lack of physical mobility, mental acuity or income.
“It’ll be great,” she promised. “You wanna come?” She said something about maybe there being donuts and I acquiesced. Louise had already done the hard part, which consisted of a lot of paperwork and a background check.
Each client got a warm tray of food along with a banana, a small carton of milk and a roll. A variety of special instructions were noted on the route sheets: “No perfume.” “Knock real hard and wait; she’s coming from the back bedroom.” “Extra milk.” “Door will be open. Leave meal on kitchen table.”
The deliveries went smoothly. I was surprised at how young most of the clients were. One had just gotten out of the hospital, and had a hospital bed set up in a cramped apartment at the top of a narrow flight of stairs. When we got to the “Knock hard” house, we saw a woman sitting at a little table in the living room, a bowl of cereal in front of her. Had she seen us? We stood at the door, then decided to knock. Hard.
“I can only move so fast,” she scolded as she opened the door. “We’ve got your meal from Loaves and Fishes,” Louise said brightly.
As it turned out, the whole process took a little over an hour, including the orientation. But there weren’t any donuts.
Once back home, I decided to take my hundred dollar bill and head over to Freddy’s after a stop at the pet store (yes, Patches is still going strong). I had my eye out for a beat-up car or worn-out pair of shoes. Or just someone needing a kind word.
The parking lot was full. It seemed like one Lexus after another. I decided to take a stroll over to the front entrance and passed by the Starbucks. There was a young man sitting at one of the tables, a stack of paperwork in front of him and a Jack Russell sitting next to his chair. I thought maybe he was filling out a job application.
“Is your dog friendly?” I asked. “Yes, she is,” he answered. “Her name’s Ruby Ann.”
Christopher told me he was applying for an assignment with the military; he hopes to be an engineer and go to Germany. He said he’d signed up because he ran out of money for college and wants to get a good education. “It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “And a good education is something no one can take from you.”
We talked for a while. His sincerity and grit, juxtaposed with his tenderness toward the dog, captivated me. I thanked him for his service. I told him I worry about our country when I see how many people are in need. He listened patiently, regarding me evenly with his clear blue eyes.
As I started to tell Christopher about my mission of giving away hundred dollar bills, I stumbled on my words. I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to go well, but I pressed on. Finally, I held out the hundred.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I couldn’t take that. I’m blessed.” He said there were so many people who really would need the money more. “God has blessed me. Really,” he said.
Eventually he said he would like to pass the money on to one of the young students in the ROTC program. “I know what ROTC did for me,” he said. “when I didn’t have what I needed. Being in the military is about being part of a team. That’s what it’s all about. We help each other out, you know?”
I have a big problem with “voluntary” service that results in kids from poor families being forced to serve and, too often, die for the promise of an education and a better life. But it was hard to argue with Christopher’s vision.
“I don’t know if you’re a God-fearing woman,” he said. “But God bless you. What you’re doing is really cool.”
God bless you, Christopher. Stay safe.
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