One year ago, we wrote in this space of an unmet human need — the need for relief from hunger among those Gainesvillians and Hall Countians who, while fortunate enough to have housing, nevertheless suffer from “food insecurity” — the gnawing uncertainty of “where their next meal will come from.”
We wrote of the fact that “houses hide hunger.” For it is all-too-human for us to assume that one able to afford housing must therefore also be able to afford food — and be able to prepare that food.
But those assumptions are sometimes unwarranted, for housing expenses and other drains on meager income can leave little for nutrition, and those ravaged by hunger may be too weak and otherwise unable to prepare what little food they have. This combination of circumstances leaves “hidden hunger” in the shadows, uniquely difficult to identify and relieve.
And, as also noted last year, a disproportionately high percentage of these victims of hunger are elderly and alone, or living with relatives who are themselves aged — with all those in the household in need of the nourishment of human contact and compassion as well as that of food.
We mentioned then that this plight of the undernourished elderly is so poignantly described by the lyrics of the song, “Hello in There,” popularized by singer Bette Midler:
“Old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day, but old people, they just grow lonesome, waiting for someone to say, ‘hello in there, hello.’ So if . . . you should spot some hollow ancient eyes, don’t you pass them by and stare, as if you didn’t care, say ‘hello in there, hello.’”
The Gainesville-Hall County Meals on Wheels program has for some 40 years been saying “hello” each week day to many who suffer this food insecurity — and has provided with that “hello” a hot meal, a caring heart, and other assistance where needed.
But the need for Meals on Wheels’ services has grown greatly during this intractable recession, inflating the waiting list of those in need of those sometimes life-saving services.
So the call went out last year to our communities and county to respond in the way that has created our area’s long history of helping our own — assisting those among us who cannot help themselves — in countless ways, over many years.
And as always, our people responded. More than $50,000 was raised, and the waiting list was reduced from 131 at that time to as low as 56, but has since risen to 84 presently.
Accordingly, there is more to be done. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s cogent reminder that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” still persists, as indeed it always will.
So if we can repeat the response of last year, in the next few weeks hopefully we can reduce the current list to zero.
And with that success, we can know the satisfaction of knowing for now that this masked misery of “hidden hunger” has been relieved in our communities and county.
Once again, we can say “hello” and “we care” for those who are in need of the helping hands of Meals on Wheels by sending our check, in whatever amount we can each manage, payable to the “North Georgia Community Foundation for the Community Council on Aging Fund,” which can be mailed to the North Georgia Community Foundation at 615 F Oak Street, Suite 1300, Gainesville, GA 30501, or by contributing online at the foundation’s website, www.ngcf.org.
When we do so, we will again have refused to simply pass by and stare, as if we didn’t care. We will instead once again have chosen to answer life’s most persistent and urgent question by doing what we can to help others.
And in doing so, we will have once more immeasurably enhanced our own blessings in this season of “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
Wyc Orr is a Gainesville attorney.