In many parts of the country March generally signals the approach of spring and the awakening of things like new leaves on trees and buds on shrubs and flowers pushing their way out of long dormant bulbs. Nights grow shorter, daylight tarries longer and life begins to “open up” again. It is always a welcome change from winter –what can sometimes seem and be a very dark and dreary season.
Like most of our fellow Americans we are happily anticipating these changes and looking forward to the return to traditional normalcy that these reopenings will bring. We’ve noticed that often stores, which have closed temporarily for renovations and expansions, hang out large signs, when these changes have been completed, to herald what they term a “Grand Reopening” and to invite their customers back inside.
Here at NFESH, where our attention has been and remains focused on reducing and eventually eradicating senior hunger, we want to draw attention to and celebrate a kind of grand national reopening that doubtless will happen quietly and almost invisibly. No big banners, no special advertising supplements in local papers, no hoopla — just service, dedication to community, allegiance to a mission to help ensure the health and well-being of elderly neighbors who have given much to society but rarely think to ask for anything in return.
We are referring to the reopening, after months of closure, of senior centers and congregate nutrition programs in cities, town and rural communities in every state across this land. While most of the senior centers closed, their provision of vital services did not cease. They were creatively relocated, reimagined, reinvented by those professionals whose dedication to serving seniors in need could be challenged by unprecedented times and circumstances but not defeated.
Now those centers are beginning to reopen gradually and quietly…much in the same way they closed and in much the same way tulips and daffodils do to declare a new and brighter season. So as this new chapter quietly unfolds across our nation, we are recognizing and celebrating the committed men and women who found innovative and unique ways of continuing to provide essential meal services to those older community members who were shut in during a shutdown none of us could have anticipated and all of us are delighted to leave behind.
But what we must never leave behind or fail to acknowledge is the immense gratitude we owe to those who remained committed to service and who enriched and in some cases saved the lives many of our country’s seniors. We never will.