For the Least of These
by John C. Westervelt
Millie is old, frail, and of modest means. She worked hard all her life, and all she wants is to remain in her own home. She wakes up on a Monday, not with despair, but with hope, because her Meals on Wheels driver will come today. She relishes the nutritional meal, but even more she looks forward to the sound of a friend’s voice at the door and the touch of a friend’s hand.
Each weekday, 2500 volunteers mobilize to feed Millie and nearly 2000 other hungry people across the Tulsa metropolitan area. The volunteers come by ones and twos to gather at fourteen geographically-based serving centers.
Recently, I visited with Dean and Jessie Cox, long-time members of Asbury, about their work with Meals on Wheels. Dean and Jessie get up before the sun rises, so they can be at the church kitchen at 58th and Sheridan by seven o’clock. Jessie begins by sanitizing the tables, while Dean prepares to receive the large thermal boxes stacked with trays of food from the delivery truck. Dean checks the temperature of the food in each tray to be sure it is safely above 140 degrees.
I wondered how Dean and Jessie managed to reach the kitchen so early on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday all year long. Dean grew up on a ranch south of Dodge City, Kansas. Jessie was raised in Eldorado, Oklahoma. Early rising and hard work were a way of life in the western parts of these states.
Dean attended Kansas University, and Jessie graduated from Oklahoma University. It was at a wedding, where Jessie was her college roommate’s bridesmaid and Dean the soloist, that a spark was lit, and marriage followed. Hard work continued for Dean as vice president of a plumbing supply company. After their children were older, Jessie continued her profession as a social worker. Today Dean and Jessie have two grandchildren in Dallas and one in Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, other volunteers come to help fill the individual containers and seal them before stacking the food in twenty-six thermal boxes, half hot and half cold. Thirteen teams of drivers arrive next and load a hot and a cold thermal box into their cars before heading out on their routes.
After that, Bill and Mary leave one of the fourteen serving centers and stop at Millie’s house. Bill stays in the car with the food, while Mary goes to the door. Millie opens the door with a smile. Millie and Mary chat for a minute. Mary lays her hand on the wrinkled arm and gently squeezes, leaving a love print. Mary walks briskly back to the car without looking back. It’s easier that way. Bill shifts into gear and heads to the next hungry friend.
After the meals are ready for delivery, Dean and Jessie help clean up the kitchen. On Mondays they go directly from the church to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, where they will work until three o’clock.
I asked, “Why do you work so hard.”
One spoke and the other agreed, “It’s not work. It’s fun meeting so many wonderful people.”
As I left their home, I thought, “Dean and Jessie have heard Jesus say, ‘Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for Me.’”
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