The Threat To Our Beloved Community

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The volunteers at Meals on Wheels work every day to create the beloved community in which we all wish to live.

Every day, they make their rounds, delivering meals — and precious compassion.

Reporter Michele Nelson rode along recently, to meet some of the people who depend on these volunteers and their federally funded meals.

She discovered marvelous people who have lived full lives of service and duty. They fought our wars. Built bridges. Served their community. Raised their families. Tended their spouses through years of illness and pain. Coped with crushing losses — celebrated wonderful triumphs. Paid their taxes. Did their jobs.

Most now need help as a result of age and illness. Men who once built roads and ran huge work crews, now struggle to stand long enough at the kitchen counter to operate the microwave.

So the Meals on Wheels volunteers show up at the front door, to deliver food and good cheer. For some of the clients who have outlived spouses and family, the Meals on Wheels volunteer offers the only reliable human contact of the day — and so an essential safeguard. The volunteers not only make sure these precious elders get a good meal, they check on their welfare, make phone calls and connect them to support services.

That’s the America we treasure — the place we wish to live. We yearn for a country that honors its elders, relies on its volunteers and makes a cheerfully nonchalant gift of compassion.

We wish Congress lived in that world.

Earlier this year, the meat-ax cuts of sequestration chopped funding for Meals on Wheels. Now, if the shutdown continues, the program faces additional sharp cutbacks. Here’s what Meals on Wheels Association President and CEO Ellie Hollander had to say about the needless government shutdown: “Such inaction adds insult to injury as senior nutrition programs are already dealing with devastating cuts due to sequestration, funding that has never kept up with inflation. Should a shutdown persist for any considerable length of time, local Meals on Wheels programs that rely on government funding could experience a delay in reimbursements for meals and services delivered. Facing such funding uncertainty, programs could be forced to suspend meal services.”

So we implore those in Congress to immediately restore these essential government services. No doubt, important policy differences lie at the base of the shutdown — and the debt default that looms. We understand the political struggle about those vital policy choices.

But we abhor a strategy that holds hostage the services the most vulnerable among us so desperately need.

That is not the beloved community we desire — and that our elders have earned.

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