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!