Monday, December 1, 2008

I Am My Brother's Keeper

Every time I listened to Barack Obama speak during his campaign, my absolute favorite part of his message was “I am my brother’s keeper.” This is the part where I usually choked up.

Community service is one of my top 10 ways to spend time. I’ve been involved in Meals on Wheels (MOW) for eight years -– driving for three years and coordinating the routes and drivers’ schedules in my town for the past five. I also sub when a driver can’t make it. As the coordinator, I serve as the contact for people who need meals, set each month’s driving schedule for the volunteer drivers, recruit new volunteers, and communicate with the drivers about changes in the routes. In a typical month, I spend about six hours doing this.

As a driver, I pick up the meals –- a hot lunch -– from a local church where an amazing group of women cooks 100+ meals every day for four towns. I then deliver the meals to the homes and apartments of mostly older people who have trouble staying on a decent diet or cooking for themselves. Part of the service is making sure the “clients” are OK, as the MOW drivers are sometimes the only people they see or talk to in a day. I haven’t had any incidents where a client needed immediate help, but one of the drivers on my route found a client no longer alive a few years ago. (Thankfully, someone found him…) Delivering takes about two hours, and on average, I drive about once a month.

There are days when it isn’t easy to fit MOW into my schedule, and it feels like a burden. But I always finish the route feeling content, happy, and fulfilled in a fundamental way. (I believe the Buddhists call this a “wholesome state”.) All this for less than 10 hours a month! (Interestingly, the roadblocks that originally made my MOW commitment seem like a burden suddenly become the burden themselves.)

In addition to the personal reward, I love that MOW gives me a chance to be a volunteering role model for my kids. This isn’t the reason I’m involved, but I hope it will inspire my kids to donate their time when they’re able. I've taken all three of them with me to deliver over the years, but they stopped wanting to come after one too many awkward hugs from the clients.

Something must have gone right though, because Mia is already coming up with idea after idea for her 8th Grade Challenge in three years –- a middle-school requirement that students run a soup-to-nuts project that benefits the community beyond their school or home. I mentored an eighth grader a couple years ago who cooked desserts and delivered meals with his mom as his challenge. To date, Mia isn’t interested in MOW for her challenge; I guess that’s “mom’s gig”. She seems to be leaning toward collecting or making something for children in need – books, quilts, pillowcases, stuffed animals.

At the risk of being preachy, I write this blog in hopes that it will encourage someone (other than Mia) to be a brothers’ keeper. For even just a few hours a month, the help or support you give someone could make a big difference in their lives. I guarantee it will make a difference in yours.

(559 words)

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