We were going door to door delivering meals. It seemed like an easy way to delve into our mission work for the week. Although I did kind of want to hand out sandwiches at the subway. After all, I was here for a challenge.
What was so challenging about handing out meals to shut-ins? Well, finding them, for starters. It was foreign city (foreign to us, at least), and I was in charge of the map. So naturally, I sent us in the wrong direction right off the bat. Whoops.
We backtracked, assured our instructors we were up to the task, and set off through the busy streets again, boxed-up food in tow. We got into a rhythm of finding the apartment complex every few streets, checking in at the front desk, and then playing with the elevator buttons to get us to the right floor. The people were sweet and, of course, happy to see the food they were expecting. It began to be pretty fun, if a little benign.
Then we came to her door. Phyllis, I think her name was. (Although, to my shame, I honestly don’t remember.) She opened the door and beckoned us inside. We’d gone inside only one other person’s apartment that day, and Phyllis seemed to be focused on something other than the food/
Her house phone was working. She said the last people who had delivered her food had gotten her phone working, but the connection had gone dead again. The apartment people took to long to come by, and she was expecting a very important business phone call any minute — something to do with Woody Allen’s next movie.
Wait a minute. This very elderly woman in this very condensed apartment needs her phone — so she can work? On a Woody Allen movie?
But we weren’t about to question her. We definitely had a challenge: could our little group from a different part of the country figure out how to help this woman get her land-line phone working so she could do what she so intent on doing? we set her food down and began tinker with her house phone. She gave us the number of the phone company so we could try to reach them on our cell phones. We weren’t sure exactly what we were doing, but we were all trying.
My eyes began to roam around the tiny space as our group worked. The lady’s desk, chairs, and shelves were all filled with books, binders, and folders. They contained actor head-shot photos, labels that categorized their looks and talent, and more. Eventually I noticed an award statue amidst the many papers and folders on her desk. It was a Screen Actor’s Guild Award. It was a special one, not for acting but for working with talent. Whoa. I didn’t know who this woman was, but she had not just been sitting around in her life, and she wasn’t kidding about her involvement in the movie industry.
We finally discovered a cell phone that a relative had given her. She was not comfortable using it, but we were able to get the phone number she needed off of the old phone and show her how to place and receive calls with the cell phone. She called her contact number, and was able to get a call back from the contact about her work. We let ourselves out the apartment as she began her important business conversation.
We went back to the city streets and finished our deliveries, but Phyllis had gotten my attention. There was an impact her life was making, even when the world outside her apartment had no clue what she was up to. I wondered how many more people like her we would meet during our work — people who just need some help with their lives so that they can continue to go above and beyond what was expected of them.