Big guy: Hey bro. Where are you from?
Me: Nigeria. You?
Me: Not sure but definitely Polynesian
BG: Samoa. What’s your name?
Me: A-Y. Yours?
BG: Do you play rugby?
BG: Why not?
Me: I am too small (he’s probably 6 5” with the rock solid “Polynesian build”)
BG: What are you reading? (He opens the book). I had my hand between the pages.
Brief pause. Uncomfortable silence
BG: Oh. Sorry I didn’t notice the hand.
Me: No probs at all
BG: What happened?
Me: That’s how I was born. Congenital.
BG: Ok. What do you drink?
BG: Well have a beer and a shot on me!
I decided to volunteer for Meals on Wheels (a government program that provides meals to home-bound senior citizens). I would join the thousands of volunteers that on any given day deliver lunch to senior citizens all over the country. For me that would be delivering lunch to about 9 people every other Monday. The food is prepared with the help of inmates at a correctional facility, then shipped to some center where volunteers like myself pick them up (already packed in a heater for the meal and a cooler for the milk, fruits, etc). I will then drive to each house on a list (“route”) and drop off the food. Some of the recipients have instructions on what to drop off (some don’t receive milk or bread) and what to do at the house (go right in; knock and wait; there’s a dog but it is harmless; etc).
I didn’t expect it to be as exhausting as it turned out to be. My first drop off was at a managed apartment complex for senior citizens, spent some time looking for the right building before making it to the right floor then the right apartment. My second drop off almost had me in tears – a very old stooped lady seated by herself in this quaint house. I knocked and went in. She asked me to put the food on a little table right in front of her – I really can’t tell exactly why I was emotional for a few minutes after I got back to my car – maybe a combination of remembering my father; the fact that ultimately we are all alone; and the lady’s condition.
The rest got better. I dropped off a couple of food packages in a house where the 86-year old lady was still as feisty as ever. When I handed the trays over to her, I asked if she could manage, to which she responded with a twinkle in her eyes: “Do you know how old I am? I am 86 years and I can still whoop the world’s arse!”
From typing in the wrong address in Google Maps, to hunting down house addresses, it was quite interesting.
I did go to the house with the dog. It was this very tiny Chihuahua which was very aggressive – but like that meme that goes “Not all Australian animals will kill you. Don’t get me wrong … he wants to. He just can’t” – the dog’s size made it hilarious – but that level of aggression would have made it very dangerous if it wasn’t “size-challenged”. I knocked on the door, and a young boy opened it and I handed over the food. Almost immediately the dog went on a barking and growling spree which was loud enough to get the attention of the next door neighbors. The boy tried to call it to heel but it would have none of it. It followed me out with the boy in tow. Every few steps I took it would charge at my feet but stop just short of actually nipping at my trouser legs.
By the time I was done 1.5 hours later, I was exhausted. I got back to the senior center where I had picked up the packages from to return the heater and cooler. I could see it was basically run by other senior citizens who were packing the food and so on. The old lady that attended to me earlier asked how it went and I told her a little difficult but since it was my first time, to be expected. An old gentleman that also worked there said “Thank you for doing this.”
Note: they have chapters all over the country if you are interested in volunteering.