Week 3, Day 1: Kevin Nowlin at MIFA

MIFA is one of those longstanding beacons of goodness in the Memphis area. It would be difficult to find a Memphian who hasn’t at least heard the name and it’s almost assured that those Memphians have passed the “hard-to-miss” building where Peabody Ave wriggles into Vance Ave. The weather is cold and gray with some rather ominous clouds lurking just over the Mississippi, but I’m “running on Dunkin” so, the world is right. I walk in to meet a tall, gentle natured and well-spoken man named Rick. He is expecting me and proceeds to give me a quick orientation of the task at hand. Did you know that MIFA employees show up at 3am to start preparing hot lunches for the delicate citizens that do not have the ability, one way or the other, to get them? This is some serious dedication. Rick identifies two coolers, and their contents, that will be traveling with me that day. They are filled with hot veggies, meat, milk, bread, and pudding… I was actually getting hungry just looking at it all. By this time, I’m getting a little antsy about where I’m going and the best way to reach the people I will be serving. I’m a logistics kind of guy; I NEED to know these things. Rick continues to impress me by handing over a line-item sheet that has names, addresses, cellular telephone numbers, succinct directions from one location to the next, and specifics on which food stuffs will be delivered at each location. MIFA could not make the process any simpler and this puts my mind at ease so I can keep my focus on service.

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And we’re off! John Cook, a veteran Odyssey volunteer, is my chauffeur for the day. Even with clear directions, some of the locations have hard to read street numbers, if any at all. Even though our first stop is down the street from MIFA, it takes us a solid 10 minutes to figure out where we are going. Knowing this is not the time for machismo; I get out and ask a sweet elderly woman for directions. She doesn’t seem to know where we are going but is certain we are in the vicinity. With a big grin on his face, John waves me back over to the car. Apparently, directions are useless if you don’t actually READ them. Needless to say, we realize the error of our ways and quickly make amends to our navigation. I’m invited into the first domicile. We exchange pleasantries and I ask if there is anything else I might be able to help with while I’m there. My invitation is politely declined but it is clear the woman is in pain and cannot get up. This is only the first stop and I just want to forego the rest of the route to stay and help her with routine tasks that we take for granted. At the next stop I walk around an apartment complex for a couple of minutes searching for the right number. As I’m handing the next person their meal I open the security door too far and accidentally unhinge the hydraulic that pulls the door shut (you know, the mechanism we put a penny or quarter in to hold the door open). The gentleman gives me the appropriate glance and I proceed to rectify the situation. I’m smiling, but inside I’m feeling the fluster that comes with maintaining composure while exerting great strength and precision as fresh caffeine courses my veins. The repair happens quicker than I expect but not as presently as I want. Graciously, I am sent on my way with an approving smile that can only come from years of experience and wisdom. The rest of the journey is placid. The genuine smiles and ‘thank yous’ make the whole experience worthwhile. The gratitude these people have for something that most of us acquire so readily is enlightening, to say the least. If you can spare at least one hour out of your week, you should. Meals on Wheels is a simple task, yet vital to so many people. MIFA has done a phenomenal job of implementing a timely delivery system that anyone can take part in.

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