Table for One

Last Thursday I was co-pilot and navigator for the retired man I live with while we delivered Mobile Meals to home-bound seniors. A few are couples, most are single men who take a while to get to the door. We had to ask at each stop if they needed a meal for Thanksgiving. Over half did, just for one person.

A haunting picture lives in my brain these days: an older man in a white undershirt watching the Macy’s parade eating a reheated Thanksgiving dinner on a metal tv tray (remember those?) with a carton of milk like we had in elementary school.  The meal was delivered about 9:30 Thanksgiving morning by a nice man with a Mobile Meals sign on top of his car.  That picture is slowly breaking my heart.

Every third Thursday of the month, the retired man I live with and I stick a Mobile Meals sign on top of the white Camry and deliver a hot meal sealed in a little black plastic tray (like a Lean Cuisine), mostly to older men living alone but sometimes to a couple still living together or an older woman.  (I’m 61–they are older, not old.) The meals are prepared by Golden Corral and packed in expensive special coolers so they stay hot.  Last Thursday we delivered Salisbury steak, rice, mixed vegetables, hot apple slices, milk, juice, and a peanut butter cookie.  The meals ride in the coolers, one hot, one cold, in the back seat.  They all seem to smell the same, no matter what’s in the tray.

The retired man I live with takes the meals to the front door.  Often the recipient is waiting and opens the door as he approaches.  I wait in the car and put the next address into the GPS.  He gives me a report.  One man must be ex-military–he is always sharply groomed and the part of the apartment visible from the front stoop is clean and tidy.  Last week he didn’t get a meal.  Our sheet says he is in the hospital. Another man’s place smells awful and I can see his baggy, used-to-be-white undershirt as he reaches for the food.  A man who takes care of his wife writes a poem and gives us a copy each month.  His faith spills out on the page.

One person didn’t answer the door last Thursday and we didn’t know if she was in the hospital or visiting family.  We gave that meal to a man standing with a cardboard sign on the corner near Panera, at the Target-PetSmart-Payless Shoes shopping center.  We had no forks or knives, but he gratefully took the food.  “It’s hot!” he said about the food and he smiled and blessed us and said “It’s a good day because God let me get up this morning.” We were quiet for a bit as we drove off.  I don’t think he cared how it smelled.

Once we tried to give a leftover meal to a woman holding a cardboard sign standing on the corner beside Chik Fil-A, not far from the Whole Foods parking lot.  I rolled down my window, asked if she wanted the meal and she asked me what it was. I told her (it was meatloaf, I think) and she said “No.” Not even “No, thanks.” I was speechless. We found a skinny man (a boy?) on another corner and he was hungry and even had his own plastic fork and knife.  He smiled and said, “Thank you!”

Thanksgiving is this week.  We will drive to our daughter’s house in Raleigh and get there around noon.  Our son-in-law will be creating a feast, my daughter will be setting the table with a white tablecloth, china, flowers and candles.  I’ll contribute a casserole dish of corn pudding and homemade Blueberry Cranberry Sauce.  We’ll visit with some of our son-in-law’s relatives that we only see once or twice a year and get in line to play with our almost-2-year-old granddaughter.  My daughter wants us to go around the table and share memories of my brother who died this summer.  He was always part of our holidays.

Before we go to Raleigh, the retired man I live with and I will gather with many other volunteers in the parking lot at the Greensboro Coliseum to pick up meals to deliver to clients of Triad Health Project. I’m on the Board of Directors for this non-profit that serves people who are HIV positive.  The Mobile Meals volunteers will be there, too, in another line.

Two restaurant owners started over 20 years ago fixing Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who wanted one .  The project has grown into a massive community volunteer effort.  So many people have offered to help that they have a waiting list for volunteers! Meals will also be served on real plates at tables with real tablecloths and centerpieces a 2 churches (one is our church) and Urban Ministry’s Potter House.  Church vans with volunteer drivers will make a couple of stops downtown and carry folks to the places with food and then take them back downtown nurtured and fed.

Our own Thanksgiving feast is easier to swallow when we know so many others are eating well, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 10:45 am  Comments (8)  
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Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable,                                                                                                                                                 illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa
1910-1997

[Reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However,  an article in the New York Times has since reported (March 8, 2002) that the original version of this poem was written by Kent M. Keith.]

Published in: on March 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (10)  
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Children of God

 She is 91.

She is small.

She is powerful.

She is filled with God’s Spirit.

She wears bootcut jeans

with a white shirt

and a leather belt.

She comes to Higher Ground

to pray

and play the piano

for the hymns we sing.

She brings lunch

for the folks who gather

and are hungry.

Finding her center and balance,

she puts one foot in front of the other.

We hold our breath

as she goes down the steps.

She follows her walker

to the curb.

It takes a while.

Her ride waits.

A red sports car slows to a stop.

The driver must idle

as cars pass on the other side.

His tires squeal his anger

as he accelerates

past the older black sedan.

Our writing group pauses.

We lift our heads up, shocked.

She buckles her seatbelt.

Her driver takes her home.

We take a long, deep breath.

We are all just children of God

doing the best that we can.

Published in: on October 21, 2011 at 9:40 am  Comments (6)  
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You Can Tell By the Shoes

Spiritual Directors International held their annual conference in Atlanta this year.  My friend and I waited in line to check in at the Westin.

The Westin is 73 floors.  We (spiritual directors) were not the only ones staying at the hotel.  Men were in suits and ties, young women in sundresses or tight jeans and t-shirts.  Other women wore black pants and loose shirts or crop pants and cardigans.

“Hey, Marjorie,” I said.  “You know how to tell who is one of us?”

(It was my 3rd SDI Conference, her 1st.)

“Check out the shoes.”

She looked around the lobby.  And laughed.  We looked at our own shoes–Keen sandals for her and SAS sandals with adjustable velcro straps for me.  We laughed even more.  Spiritual Directors like comfortable, practical, wearable, walkable shoes.  Sexy?  Not so much.

My feet have required not-cheap, comfortable shoes for years.  Even for weddings.  Sigh.  (I know–who looks at the mother-of-the-bride’s shoes?  But it mattered to me.)

I bought a pair of black sneakers/walking shoes a couple of years ago.   I chose velcro straps instead of shoestrings because rheumatoid arthritis has done some damage to my finger dexerity.  (Ask my husband/kids about how I give someone “the finger” these days.  It looks like it’s in code.)

Those black shoes were kind of clunky but sort of okay with long black pants or jeans.

I couldn’t wear them.

They were really comfortable shoes.  But UGLY.  My pride and vanity won out over comfort and common sense.

I know a woman who has no car and no money for the bus.  She walks a lot.  I gave her the clunky, comfortable black shoes.

She LOVES those shoes.

We Share This Universe

Our awesome responsibility to ourselves, to our children, and to the future is to create ourselves in the image of goodness, because the future depends on the nobility of our imaginings.
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

The world we live in depends on the responsible contributions each of us makes.

And this world is just as good as are the many talents we commit ourselves to developing and offering.

None of us is without obligation to offer our best to our family, friends, or strangers, if our hope is to live in a good world.

The world can only be as good as each of us makes it.

Individually and collectively our power to mold the outer circumstances of our lives is profound.

Our personal responses to one another and our reactions to events that touch us combine with the actions of others to create a changed environment that affects us.

No action, no thought goes unnoticed, unfelt, in this interdependent system of humanity.

We share this universe.

We are the force behind all that the universe offers.

Whether I acknowledge the depth of my contribution is irrelevant.

It is still profound and making an impact every moment and eternally.

 

from the book: The Promise of a New Day

by Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg

 


Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  
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Durable Goods

Definition of durable: able to exist for a long time without significant deterioration.

Durable goods are products whose usefulness continues for a number of years and that are not consumed or destroyed in a single usage. They are able to withstand repeated use; not disposable.

My friend said I was durable.  I think that was a compliment.

I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis for over 20 years.  More than one doctor has lectured me about the dangers of falling, including the possibility of shattering my wrists.  I’ve been careful.  Mostly.

I tripped starting up some concrete steps heading into a meeting.  I remember my forehead hitting a step and I ended up on my hands and knees, blinded in one eye by the blood gushing from my forehead.

A woman walked up right after I fell.  She got some very capable help who kept me (and the gathering group of concerned people) calm until the ambulance came.  I got four stitches in my forehead, had some bad scrapes on one hand and arm and developed two amazing black eyes.  A CT scan of my head and hand x rays were fine.

I was lucky.  I was never in much pain and the injured parts are healing.

I sent an email to warn some friends about how I looked.  One said she was glad I was so durable.

Durable  (says thesaurus.com) is abiding, constant, dependable, enduring, lasting, permanent, persistent, reliable, stable, strong, tenacious, and tough.

Durable means I’ve been in pain, learned from it, and come out okay.

Durable is good.

The True Story Of Rudolph

(I really hope this is a true story.  Thank you, Sam.)

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.  Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?” Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life. Life always had to be different for Bob.


Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.


Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined to make one – a storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn’t end there.


The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print  Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.


In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn’t end there either.


Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.  “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.”


The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.