“Holed Up for a Year, I Hope…”
Holy Week podcast from Colleen Clark
In the “early days” of February and March of last year, I found myself reading article after article about how the coronavirus was wreaking havoc on older adults. For good reason, millions of our senior neighbors no longer felt safe shopping for groceries or eating out at restaurants – and in that moment, many of them turned to Meals on Wheels. Although I had left working for the organization just 10 months earlier, I felt called to return and contribute.
At Meals on Wheels America, we were working around the clock to fundraise and distribute grants as quickly as we could. Still, it was never fast enough to meet the wildly growing need. I would lie awake in bed at night, thinking of seniors like my great Aunt Mary who didn’t know where their next meal might come from, or when they would receive a friendly knock on the door. For a population that had already been “holed up” since long before COVID-19, I worried about their ability to weather the storm through loneliness, fear and hunger.
I worked hard for, and felt moved by, the local boots on the ground that did everything in their power to ensure seniors in their community were fed. In Vermont, by example, a local Meals on Wheels program shared that there was such a high demand for meals that they had run out of storage space in their kitchen. Scrappy and determined, each staff member made room in their personal fridges for friends, neighbors and strangers. The Meals on Wheels route was no longer picking up food from one central, industrial kitchen, but grabbing meals from staff and volunteers’ houses, bringing nutrition from one home directly to another.
Food – and food insecurity – both riddled me with anxiety and inspired me to do more. Food was also an incredible source of comfort, a cure to the humdrum weekend. One of the few pre-pandemic traditions I refused to let go of was buying a cup of coffee every morning, even if that meant walking a mile or ordering exorbitantly priced Starbucks delivery when it rained (or let’s be honest, when I felt lazy.) Meals on Wheels got me out of bed in the morning, and a meal of pizza and wine would often put me to sleep. I made a smoothie everyday to smooth over the cracks of watching the world fall apart. When I couldn’t see friends safely inside, I drove by and dropped off donuts to make sure our sweet connection was not forgotten.
On the day of the 2020 election, I pushed through my anxiety with pastries and prayer. I sipped tea to calm my nerves. I bought champagne – a necessity regardless of the outcome. And when the sun came out, both literally and figuratively, we had cheese and crackers in our backyard, toasting to a new day.
And still, perhaps, the most exciting part of life now is my weekly grocery order – where I imagine the possibilities of what the week ahead holds. Some weeks, I crave the comforts of a warm lasagna, the convenience of frozen chicken fingers and fries. And other weeks, I’m trying culinary recommendations and new recipes from friends, flipping through Cooks Illustrated, and yearning for connection to the world outside my home. Holed up for a year, I hope it’s only a matter of time until we’re all sharing meals, laughing across the table, widening our eyes as we say, “Try this – it’s so delicious!”
Colleen Clark is Senior Director of Strategic Gifts at Meals on Wheels America.
P.S. Click here to check out other posts in this series!
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog