Serving Seniors with Gratitude


Recently, as part of my job, I ventured downtown for an outing with some of our donors.  We were serving lunch to the elderly at a place called Serving Seniors.  Not sure why, but it seems I missed last year’s visit to the center.

But this time I went and I’m glad of it, because what I gained by this small act was a bounty of joy, goodwill and a feeling that bordered on euphoria. For I was doing something I hadn’t done in a long time:  I was helping others and I’d forgotten how good it feels to give of yourself.

The purpose of the Serving Seniors organization is to provide “impactful programs and services to older adults living in poverty.” And at Serving Seniors, they do this everyday. Seven days a week. Rainy days and holidays included.

Nearly 85 percent of their clients live below the Federal Poverty Level, and none are charged for using the services provided.  The funds tp pay for the service come from private donations, grants and the like.

Lunch is served in three shifts. On the day I was there, I arrived in time to help with the second shift. I was given a disposable, plastic apron and gloves to wear. My job was to grab trays that were divided into compartments, much like the TV dinner tin plates I remembered from my youth. The main course, a pint of milk and a piece of fruit were already on the tray, and I was told to add to each tray the following:

  • Saltine crackers (2 packets);
  • Paul Newman dressing (one packet); and
  • Utensils wrapped inside a napkin

There were table after table of seniors waiting to be served.  Many of these seniors  I’d seen earlier, waiting patiently in another room for their turn to eat.

I naively asked one of the staff, “Wouldn’t it save time for these seniors to get their own tray of food themselves? Why do we need to bring it to them?”

Frankly, I thought it would it would be more efficient for them to get their own food.  But when I learned the reason for doing it this way, I felt a bit sheepish for asking.

Bringing the meals to the seniors gives them a certain dignity you cannot get from having to get up and get the food yourself.  By doing it this way, we are showing respect and treating them with the civility and kindness everyone deserves. It didn’t take long for me to see this for myself.

“Here you go, Sir,” I said as I lay a tray in front of an Asian man, who seemingly nodded with satisfaction. Here’s your dish, Ma’am,” I said as I smiled at a woman in a wheelchair.  She smiled back.

It was because of these momentary connections that, later that day, I visited the Serving Seniors website and filled out an online application for new volunteers. I want to return and become a regular volunteer. Perhaps someday the staff will let me teach a class in writing or anything else that might be needed!

I saw the gratitude in the eyes of the seniors, and in the process, I felt it in myself, too. Something that’s been hard to find of late. Seems to me, in the last couple of years, I’ve seen more divisiveness and less empathy, compassion and all the wonderful emotions that give us our humanity and compel us to want to help others.

So this Thanksgiving, I am all for gratitude.  Gratitude that I have the capacity and wherewithal to give back. This is important to me, now more than ever.

I’m also for dignity, respect, doing onto others as you would want done unto you. I am asking not what my country can do for me, but what I can do for my country, something I’d learned as a child but had forgotten. I’m for compassion. I want to believe in the goodness in others and sing for the freedom I have, and for free will.

This Thanksgiving, I’m for what is right. For fairness and love, and a world full of hope that springs eternal, and not despair. One that blooms with flowers and is full of music, not dissonance. And peace, always peace.

Most of all, I’m for LOVE SWEET LOVE SWEET LOVE!

This season, whatever you’re grateful for, embrace it, nurture it, love it because, if there’s one thing we’ve learned this year, it’s that we cannot take anything for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  And thank you for being you!

10 thoughts on “Serving Seniors with Gratitude

  1. Monica, I’m so late commenting on your post, it is almost like my life exists on an alternate plane. I love this post. I can’t tell you how I adore chatting with the seniors who live right across from us. Their stories are full of mirth and positivity, even when life was at its absolute worst; scarcity of food, no heat, war and so much in-between, they have maintained joy – the secret to life they say. There are two ladies in particular that I adore, we met while walking in our neighborhood. We’ve become like a little family. My daughter walks their dogs, we bake them treats, they are always there for me when I’ve had a bad day; I cherish their wisdom and most of all they remind me of my mum, whom I miss terribly.
    love and hugs to you my friend xo

    • MM, too often we keep our seniors away from the rest of the population and children aren’t around them much. So I’m so glad to hear all that you do to make sure your kids interact with seniors and give them the respect they deserve. They have years of experience and knowledge. We can all learn from our elders. Happy New Year, my friend. I hope to see more of you in the coming year!

  2. You’re a champion! Keep up the good will. I love that you’ve realised why ‘service to others’ is important. 🤗🤗

    • Happy New Year, Gina! I’m hoping this year I will be inspired to blog more. I so enjoy it, but somewhere along the way it fell off my radar. Since this blog, I’ve volunteered at Serving Seniors a few more times. Good people who just need a little help and empathy. My best to you!

    • Serving Seniors is in San Diego. I included a link in my post the first time I mention its name. I’m sure though, that wherever you live, there are places like Serving Seniors helping the older people who live in your neck of the woods.

  3. Monica, bless you for posting this! AMEN, we certainly have lost a lot of our kindness, civility, and gratitude lately, and more’s the pity. There are so many who need our help and thoughtful concern, yet too few hands willing to undertake the task. I imagine you received much more than you gave by serving the seniors (but I’ll bet they warmed to your presence, too!)

    • Many such organizations have had their federal funding cut dramatically. Yesterday I had a meeting with the co-founder of Somali Family Services and he told me his federal funding was slashed. It’s all they can do to remain in operation, so volunteerism is needed more than ever. Glad to be doing my share. 🙂

  4. Lovely post Monica.

    We don’t have thanksgiving here of course, mind you we are always ready for any excuse to have a days holiday.

    I love chatting to elderly people, they have such great tales to tell, and if you show an interest then tell them they will.

    Some years ago I used to work for a community transport group and we carried lots of older people from place to place and on day out to various places. Generally they set out with the intention of having a good time. Many of them lived on their own and other than their lunch clubs and day centre trips they often had very little interaction with other people.

    A year or so ago I was on the local bus, playing on my iPad, it was sudoku which I am addicted to playing when I heard this little girl say to her mother…. That mans playing on an iPad. So? replied her mother. Well the little girl said, why? he is old! I was lost for words which is unusual for me!!!

    • Well, Robert, I hope you laughed. I was recently at an event with a young colleague in her twenties. I pointed to a group of folk, who I’m pretty sure were older than yours truly. I asked my young friend to guess their age. She replied, “Oh they’re old. Probably in their sixties.”
      Needless to say, I remarked, “Really, you call that old? Well, I’m in my sixties, too!” Clearly, she was aghast. Same thing happened today with a male colleague who is also in his twenties. Young folk have no concept of age. Sigh.

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