We Can’t Feed the World
Last March, our little 89 home over-55 community was thriving. We had just finished up a very successful play, we were working on a Murder Mystery Theater, and had just started up a writing club. This in addition to the almost daily card games and other regular activities enjoyed by over half our residents.
Then, disaster struck. The pandemic we had been watching in the news as it left China and headed to our shores was now close at hand. Everything halted. The clubhouse was shuttered and locked.
We settled in for the long haul; how long nobody knew.
But as I said, it is a very social community, and after a few weeks, some of us got together and began discussing what we could do. We organized a few socially distant events in our little green space, but the effort seemed hollow in light of everything that was going on.
Then, someone suggested that a group of us set up a caring tree for the neighborhood. Kind of like a phone tree, but we were responsible for making sure that everyone down the tree from us had all their needs met.
The good news/bad news was that being older, everyone was experienced enough to be self-sufficient or had nearby kids that could help take care of them.
So, one group with the skill and knowledge began making masks for first responders, nursing homes, and the Navajo Nation. By the middle of summer, they had distributed thousands of masks. This was great but other than gathering supplies; it left the rest of the neighborhood with nothing to contribute.
That was when one of those serendipitous moments happened. Another neighbor had heard from a local food bank that they had a shortage of breakfast cereal, and a call went out to the community. The result was about a hundred boxes of cereal put together for that food bank.
The bigger result was our neighborhood food drive. The collection point rotates between five of us, and everyone else contributes groceries. Each and every week since April, we have delivered two or three trunks loaded to the brim with groceries to one of three local food banks.
By the end of the year, many of the larger food banks were getting taken care of by local grocers, so we settled on a nearby church. With them, at least we knew we were giving to people in need that lived nearby. Each week, we also held back a few bags and took them to a local parking lot where Latinos gather looking for work.
On a mid-November visit to the church, the woman handling the food almost single-handedly waited for us when we made our weekly run. “I hate to ask you this,” she said, “but in addition to the food bank, we are putting together Christmas gifts for the local children who otherwise wouldn’t have anything.”
“We’d be glad to help.”
We were then given age groups for boys and girls that our neighborhood took ownership of. I thought the generosity shown with the weekly food donations was overwhelming, but I hadn’t seen anything yet. Our house was the collection point, and before it was over, our dining room was completely covered with toys. That week we needed a caravan to haul all the toys, plus the usual amount of groceries to the church.
I thought I had seen it all. Our community had risen to the occasion and exceeded all my hopes for this outpouring of charity. But we have continued to keep up the food drive, which I hope we will keep doing indefinitely.
And then, stimulus checks were delivered. First one, then several, and finally, many more of our neighbors wrote checks to the church’s food pantry for $600 or $1,200.
I am both humbled and proud of our little neighborhood. I hope soon we will get back to whatever normal becomes.
But we will never be the same again.