Not that long ago, I wrote about the faces and people behind the big numbers and abstractions we think of when we speak about the Federal Government (capital letters deliberate). What we actually mean, I think, is 'we the people.' As in 'we the people' had both sequestration and shutdown which are synonyms for other people's pain.
Harm has been visited upon some in our community who are too young to have done anything to deserve it (the defunding of Head Start programs), and too old to defend themselves from bottom-liners who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
I'm not good at math and never have been but I know how much forty is, as in the forty consecutive years the Thames Valley Council for Community Action, TVCCA, has asked the City of Norwich to help fund some of costs of the senior citizens' nutrition program Meals on Wheels (that currently feeds about 125 people who live here), not covered by federal grants.
Perhaps because they've asked so politely for forty years, saying 'no' hasn't ever been news and never seemed to hurt anyone.
Until now, that is.
Earlier this summer, sequestration created a $66,000 shortfall in the TVCCA grant. They had to lay off a dozen drivers and cut their deliveries to Norwich senior citizens from four meals a week to one.
Don't be fooled by the name. The meals are as much about human contact as they are about nutrition. The drivers and others in the program are often first responders when a recipient needs Chicken Soup for the Soul and not just soup and a sandwich.
John Prine once offered in “Hello in There,” ‘old people just grow lonesome.’ A kind word from a warm heart with a hot meal can work a small wonder and some days a small wonder is enough.
I'm haunted by the story of Christina Copeman of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in the heart of the Capital of the World, New York City, surrounded on all sides by people who, nevertheless, slipped away unnoticed and lay dead in her own house for over a year and a half. All the newspapers wondered was "how did this happen in Brooklyn?" rather than how could it happen at all.
These are not the best of times even for those who have enough but they are nearly unbearable for those who lack. Monday, at the final meeting of this Norwich City Council before the election, hopefully right after the public hearing on the ordinance the Council members will unanimously agree to pay (at least some of) what we owe TVCCA for this year and for our seniors who need us.
We will not fix the world Monday night, but we will know we helped repair a small and special piece of it where our neighbors, friends and, perhaps, family members are waiting for "someone to say hello in there."