When I was a little girl my mom would take me on her Meals On Wheels route. The thing that I remember most was how happy those old people seemed to be to see me. They didn’t even know me but they would gush and want to hold my hand and ask how old I was. In the few brief minutes, we were guests in their home a shy little girl with auburn hair would bring them a breath of fresh air along with their lunch.
Fast forward a few decades and here I am with my very own route. When I was at a place in my life where I had the time to commit to community volunteer work the first thing I did was call up my local Meals On Wheels office to find out about driving a route. I’ve been doing it for several years, once a week and am thankful every week at the opportunity to serve someone in need. When my oldest son was in pre-school I would take him on my route with me. Most of the time he would clam up and not say much but the clients loved seeing him. My younger son, Harry, is more of a social butterfly and enjoys delivering meals during the summer months when he isn’t in school. He joined Cub Scouts last year and when it was time to earn his Bobcat badge by doing a good deed, he couldn’t wait to deliver Meals on Wheels.
Driving Meals On Wheels has been a life lesson for both me and my boys.
It teaches us to serve those in need. For the clients who are home bound and unable to make their own way to the grocery store, this service is essential to their daily survival. Many of my clients would split the meal in half so that they could have something for dinner. When my older son would complain about having to tag along, I would remind him that the lunch we were bringing may be the only meal they would receive all day. They were depending on us.
It teaches us kindness and compassion. For some of these folks, their driver may be the only other person they see all day long. No person is an island unto themselves and no one deserves to be left alone all day. We all need interaction with another human being even if it is as simple as a friendly smile, a pat on the hand or a quick chat.
It teaches a sense of community. This service is a vital part of our community that would not survive without its volunteers. It’s important to give of yourself, your time and resources without expecting anything in return.
It teaches humility. There were many times I had to explain to my tender little boys that not everybody lives in a big house with nice things and lots of toys to play with. Not everybody has someone to take care of them, cook them dinner every day, play with them and kiss them goodnight every night. Not everybody can keep their house clean and smelling nice or have new, clean clothes. Not everybody can just hop in the car whenever they feel like it and go out to eat at their favorite restaurant or buy lots of groceries without worrying if they will have enough money. These are difficult life lessons for a little boy and sharp reminders for an adult. The take home lesson from “not everybody has…” is that even though many of the people we delivered to had less than we did, what they did have is the assurance that they could depend on us to bring them their lunch that day.
After all these years, Meals On Wheels means to me: Service, Kindness, Compassion, Community, and Humility. I’m so glad my mom knew to haul me all over town with her.
To find out more about a Meals on Wheels program near you and how to support them, please check out their website. This program is too important to too many people to let slip through budget cracks.