OT students and meals on wheels experiences with MIFA.
MIFA 2 – 2/21/2008 (Memphis Interfaith Association, a meals on wheels type of program, that we are doing three times for school credit, including journaling the experience). I actually think it's a great thing for people to do, and a good way to remember how blessed most of us truly are. Below is what I wrote for my journal, it is somewhat free-form and informal, so don't judge me too harshly. The “you” I refer to is my professor.
Today was actually kind of fun and relatively different from last time. We were a little concerned because we had heard yet another horror story from some classmates about where they got sent. The route we got sent on today made me nervous at first because it involved being on Chelsea, which is notorious for being a scary street. However, it ended up being enjoyable. Allison was a lot less scared this time and didn’t need me to keep turning off the car to go up with her, for most houses. Also, people came to the doors quickly. Last time it seemed every person took 5 minutes to answer their door, and it took us hours to get through 14 houses. This time we had 16 houses or so and we got done in less than an hour. When we were in an area with two MIFA houses, we’d split up, and if I could be right near the door with the car, Allison would go up alone. We only went together to houses that were extra scary or if there were a lot of people around. She had to help me open a simple gate at one point. I have so much advanced knowledge, yet lack some basic skills…ok, I know you are probably rolling your eyes at me right now, talking about how we were concerned about where we were and being frightened, but we’re still sheltered in a lot of ways, and we have to get some experience under our belt before we stop being nervous. I’m sure that’s a huge reason as to why you make us do this. But I get frustrated when seasoned people seem to think we are crazy for being scared. It’s only prudent to be safe, and it’s normal to be scared of being in unfamiliar bad areas of town. Also, as young 20-somethings, when people are out, we typically get cat-called, which can be scary too. After today, when it really wasn’t that bad and it went quickly, I could see how it would be fun to do this regularly. I might try and do it every few months, I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to do it alone though.
It was an adventure, twisting around to get food, flinging ice around by accident, searching for addresses…it is like being a pizza delivery man and wasn’t nearly as hard as I would have guessed. The instructions were surprisingly simple and easy to follow. The scariest part today was when we drove up to a house that had a German shepherd with a spiked collar hanging out next door, and several other strays near the car. We didn’t know what to expect, especially in regards to the German shepherd. We kind of hesitantly opened the door, ready to close it again if the dogs came to us. Luckily they ignored us and so we went ahead. When we got back, we told Helen that was the scariest thing we dealt with, and she said she doesn’t do dogs, and will keep driving if that happens to her. That made me laugh because here she guilt-tripped us about going to unsafe places but then admitted she won’t do dogs, which we were okay with braving. Honestly, unless I was so scared I'd want to pee my pants, the guilt trip of knowing someone wouldn't eat because of me, motivates me enough that I'll push my boundaries far beyond normal limits.
Sometimes we would pull up to a house, then realize we could maneuver the car in an easier way, and frequently you would see movement in the house like WAIT STOP FOOD. So we’d stop maneuvering the car to avoid their heart attack and just run in. It seems like some people just sit there, waiting for us, and that is sad to me. At one house, we knocked on the door and got no answer. A man on the porch two houses down said, knock on the window to your left instead, she’s in her bedroom. So we did and it worked. That was so nice of him. We haven’t really had any problem at all doing this – I am having my eyes opened with this experience. Some people have more than others, and some areas might have more crime, but overall, most neighborhoods do have compassionate and kind people in them who are just doing the best they can under the circumstances. When you drive around, it’s so stereotypical – vulgar graffiti on dumpsters and walls, stray dogs, trash strewn around, R.I.P alters, boarded up houses…it’s like being in a movie. And now I realize the people in most of those houses are just normal people. Not every house has angry gang members inside waiting to pop out. That’s not to say I’d go cruising in the area on a nice summer night, but overall it helped me have some more compassion. My anthropology professor in college once made us write a paper about a life changing experience, like going abroad, but he said – unless you went for at least a year, I don’t want to hear about it. Don’t tell me your life was changed after three months in another country, it takes longer than that for true change. So luckily I’d been gone a year and could do my story. But anyway, I feel like I’m being trite and stupid when I say that it changed me or opened my eyes – doing MIFA twice is not exactly a mind-boggling experience to most and it’s certainly not much exposure. I’m really not trying to act like I’m now a new person just because I was in a bad part of town a few times or that I deserve some reward. I just mean I’ve gained some new insights, which are important to me, and I want to continue to do so. My twin sister used to live in the ghetto in Washington D.C. and when I visited her, I was freaked out when we visited her old area, and she thought that was amusing. Now I better understand why older/seasoned people find it funny when we act so scared – there's really not much to be scared of, after all.
One last thing – I’ve learned that in most cases, a friendly nod and smile or wave goes a long way. When driving slowly around, there are a lot of people walking on the street, and it’s so easy to just acknowledge them briefly, instead of acting scared. I think it’s true you have to fake it until you make it – show no fear, and hopefully you will A, not anger or hurt anyone, and B, eventually believe it yourself. I’ve always been a big fan of acknowledging others on the street even when my passengers think that’s stupid. I guess in general I like talking to strangers. I honestly wish, sometimes, that I could just talk to random strangers about their lives, Tracy Kidder style. It fascinates me. I used to want to write a book just based on spending weeks with a bunch of total strangers in various areas. I don’t know why I bring that up now – I guess because I can see how it would be neat to have the same route each week, getting to actually know your consumers and learn more about their stories. We have one more MIFA run coming up, and I'm almost looking forward to it. Watch us end up in the scariest neighborhoods EVER….lol