by Matthew Levine
We’ve been fighting senior hunger as an organization for many years. And I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be involved for about ten of those years. Unfortunately, as I look back, many of those years blend together. Of course, there are some great innovations and remarkable successes that stand out along the way. There are also setbacks and heartbreaking things we’ve seen and experienced that are seared into my memory. But for the most part it’s hard to get people to change the way they think about something or to tackle a problem in a new way. Even the most dedicated people in the field start to feel complacent or even defeated over time. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I feel like we as a country are stuck in a rut when it comes to ending senior hunger.
Just when you start to feel that defeat…
Someone MOVES you! The power that one person has to breathe life into a movement is extraordinary. One person’s selflessness can lift up the defeated and complacent. One person can set an example for others to follow; a shining light for a movement to follow.
Someone moved me recently. That someone moved a whole room of people who are dedicated to serving seniors in their state. Mrs. Sandra Deal, the outgoing First Lady of Georgia came to Columbus, GA, to the 3rd Annual GA Senior Hunger Summit. It was the 3rd straight year she attended. Mrs. Deal spoke beautifully about caring for her and Governor Deal’s parents when their health declined. And she acknowledged that not everyone has family close by or the means to care for their elders. Her message of acknowledging seniors and needing to give seniors of our respective communities (family, friends, neighbors) our attention really struck a chord.
Mrs. Deal’s acknowledgment of this issue – her attention to the needs of Georgia’s seniors and of the people who are trying to serve them – gives me hope. She didn’t have to drive over 2 hours from Atlanta to Columbus to speak at the Summit for the 3rd straight year. She had already visited two elementary schools that morning to read to children. Despite her own personal health challenges, Mrs. Deal had the strength and will to make the trip so that everyone in the room would know how much she cares. This wasn’t for publicity. Mrs. Deal created the First Lady’s Older Adults Cabinet so leaders from around the State could tackle issues as she learned about them. Nothing was going to keep Mrs. Deal from speaking at the Summit.
As I sat there and listened to her speak, I was almost moved to tears. And I realized, this is how we Americans end senior hunger.
We do it together with people like Mrs. Deal…people with power or influence who acknowledge this issue and give it attention. We need leaders…one at a time…in each state to embrace this issue and care (really care) about seniors. First ladies, celebrities, politicians…letter carriers, teachers, pastors…We need leaders from everywhere to invest their hearts in this noble cause of ours.
Mrs. Deal, thank you for caring, thank you for putting some wind in our sails and thank you for showing others how they can make an impact.