Friday, March 17, 2017

Cutting Meals on Wheels

Every other Thursday, I volunteer for Meals on Wheels.

I get in my car, and drive to the nearby Baptist Church, where I pick up anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen hot meals, along with a cold dinner.  For the next hour and a half, I drive from home to home, delivering those meals to the those in need.  I've delivered to disabled veterans and the desperately poor.  Mostly, the people on my route are older women, widowed, living alone.

I say hello, wish them a good day, and...if it seems like they want a few moments of human interaction...I'll stick around and talk for a bit.

For some, I'm the only human being they'll see that day.  So I don't rush it, because I know how important that contact is.

Sometimes, no-one will come to the door, and that's my cue to contact our dispatcher, who contacts family.  Most of the time, it's nothing.  But I'm also aware that I may be the first line of alert if something's gone wrong.

I've been doing it for years, because it's a good thing to do.  As a Christian, and as the pastor of a small congregation, I have the time to volunteer as a private citizen.  I know that what makes a community moral is its care for those in need.  How a society treats widows and the elderly is the surest measure of its value, as written into the scriptures of my faith.

Meals on Wheels has struggled with budget cuts over the years, as "efficiency"-minded ideologues have nibbled away at funding for a program that is bare-bones lean to begin with.

The latest budget, however, goes the full Monty.  The current budget proposal from the Administration completely eliminates all federal support for Meals on Wheels, deleting the $3 billion in block grants given to the states and using those funds to offset the building of a border wall and new weapons purchases for the military.

In the wealthiest of communities, this will have less of an impact, as localities pick up the slack rather than allowing the disabled and elderly widows among them to languish or starve.

But throughout the American South and in small towns, this will impact a vital program providing food and human contact to the disabled and the elderly.  It will mean more older Americans having to leave their homes sooner.  And it will mean more people go hungry.  Period.

I understand that there are those who believe that the federal government should take no role in promoting the general welfare of all Americans.  I am not one of those people.  Our national government must both its actions and use of our resources...our values as persons and communities.

I also understand that this is just a proposal.  It is not yet law.

From that understanding I would like to be measured in my response.

But as this shameless, morally bankrupt administration doubles down on its assault on the poor and the elderly, dismissing Meals on Wheels as "not showing any results," that is not how I feel.  I see the faces of those women as I bring their meals, hear their voices as we talk, and all I feel is anger.

Anger at this administration's willful ignorance of what makes our nation worthy, at their foolishness, at their crass, false, self-serving shallowness of soul.

And while recognizing that compassion and care for the poor are not uniquely Christian virtues, there can be no question: such a choice once again marks this administration as fundamentally opposed to the values taught by Jesus of Nazareth.