Where the Lunch Meets the Road

bigstock-Green-And-Red-Healthy-Food-14588906-1024x1024I’m not much of a do-gooder. I don’t readily trust organizations that ask me for money. (Thanks, Father Ritter and Greg Mortenson.) I am as resistant to fad charities as I am to fad books and diets, which is why I refused to watch any of the gazillion ALS ice-bucket-challenge videos posted on Facebook last summer (except the one where the Texan dispenses the ice with his rifle). And I feel no guilt about using those free return-address labels so many organizations optimistically send in pursuit of a donation.

I’ve been only marginally more generous with my time, volunteering mainly when relentlessly harangued (does that still count as volunteering?) or when I genuinely cherish the mission, like reading to little kids.

imagesSo I’m not sure what compelled me to respond to the ad I noticed last month seeking drivers for Meals on Wheels, the non-profit that delivers lunch and a look-in to seniors. Certainly, I found the concreteness of the task appealing; driving around the Vermont countryside pushing food on receptive strangers promised to satisfy both the road warrior and the Jewish mother in me. I welcomed the human contact–however forced–as an antidote to the isolation of working at home in rural New England. And perhaps I felt partially shamed by the “Best Citizen I Know” essay my 7th grader recently wrote about her older sister, who earned the title for “working with schools and charities, voting, and trying to give blood.” (Apparently her iron count was too low. “But it’s the thought that counts,” the little suck-up wrote.)

Regardless, in a matter of days I was loading two coolers into my trunk and making my first rounds. Some recipients were waiting expectantly at the kitchen table, knife and fork at the ready; others were reading, playing the piano, or dozing, and took a minute to appear. Most wanted to chat.

Now, I am happy to report, I have 9 new friends! Sure, I have to tell them my name again every week; their average age, I’m guessing, is 84. But mostly they are happy to see me, and very graimages-2-e1416578980566teful for the little plastic trays of still-warm food I deliver, along with milk and bread. We discuss the weather, the news, their holiday plans, and their health; they ask about my work, my family, and where I buy my clothes. (Not all are familiar with “the Internet.”) Sometimes they need my help in retrieving the mail, moving a heavy pot, or finding the cat. And they love to show me things: pictures of a newborn great-granddaughter, a stack of 90th birthday cards, the coats on sale in the Macy’s catalogue, a fat squirrel feasting at the bird feeder.

They couldn’t possibly look forward to the visits more than I do. Among other things, our lunch dates have done wonders for my ego; one woman actually asked me if I was a college student, confirming my belief that it is utterly impossible to determine the age of anyone older than 12 but younger than you. And they remind me to appreciate my own parents and their remarkably hale health. Best of all, they provide me with every journalist’s dream: a rich supply of stories, encompassing first loves, rewarding jobs, rebellious kids, enduring friendships, exotic travels. To be sure, my new friends have suffered many losses–mobility, hearing, spouses, even children–but they don’t dwell on those. They are too busy bragging about a daughter’s recent promotion, a sweet letter from a grandson, or the gourmet Thanksgiving meal a late husband used to prepare. And suddenly, I find the “holiday season” a little easier to bear.


About Susan H. Greenberg

Susan H. Greenberg spent 22 years as a journalist for Newsweek Magazine. She now works as a writer, editor, teacher, and parent of three children, with whom she strives always to maintain a varnish-free relationship.
This entry was posted in Family life, Food, Grandparents, Holidays, Neighbors, Small-town life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Where the Lunch Meets the Road

  1. David Holzman says:


    Glad to see you posting again. I hope everything is going great with Bill and the kids. How is your California freshman doing. Please stop by if you make it to Andover over the holidays.

    Best regards,


    General Manager/CFO
    15 Alexander Road | Billerica, MA 01821
    T: 978.964.1860 | C: 978.807.6658 | E: dholzman@winbrook.com
    w w w . w i n b r o o k . c o m

  2. Linda Flanagan says:

    Sue, you “do good” all the time by writing these brilliant posts and sharing them with us. Love this!

  3. Karen Eichler says:

    Sue, one of your best. Truly a beautiful, funny, and moving piece of writing. I am in Skagit County for the weekend of Thanksgiving with my Mom, and spending tonight having a card party with my girl cousins (8 of us including sibs). I will be reading this to everyone. Giving thanks for having loving family and friends like you to share this with. XOXO

  4. “I am as resistant to fad charities as I am to fad books and diets, which is why I refused to watch any of the gazillion ALS ice-bucket-challenge videos posted on Facebook last summer (except the one where the Texan dispenses the ice with his rifle).”–LOL! Does this mean you won’t be starting a Meals on Wheels Rollerskating challenge? Nice work, Sue!

  5. marnj says:

    fantastic, g-berg. love the piece–mostly the heart of it!

  6. Judith Holt says:

    Sue, Good to hear from you again through your blog. Hope all is going well with you and yours.

    At Family Services on the Samaritan hotline, we get over 170,000 calls per year. Most of the calls are from elders. They are lonely. What a wonderful gift you bring these lovely people not only in calories and (especially) care.

    Have a wonderful holiday season! Stay warm.


  7. Nate Scott says:

    You must get them on the internet so they can read the fabulous “Unvarnished Mom.” Also this is me, but I think somehow I’m responding on Nate’s account. Don’t ask me…

  8. Jack Ruderman says:

    inspiring, entertaining and heart-warming. put a smile on my face. have a great Thanksgiving!

  9. Gari James says:

    I love to read your writings and this one is one of my favorites! Both Vermont and Meals on Wheels are dear to me.

  10. PW Mooney says:

    I am glad to see that you have resumed writing Unvarnished Mom. I find the humor very inspiring. Keep it up. PW Mooney

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s