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It was a beautiful day when Richard Levitan knocked on the door of a Meals On Wheels of San Francisco client, toolbox in hand. He was there to set up a table – a simple table – something Marta, the client, had long been living without.
When the door opened, Richard was greeted in Russian by a lovely older woman, her youthful features belying her 87 years. She spoke no English, and her only glimpse into the outside world was through her caretaker and translator who spent two hours with her each afternoon. Richard—affable as can be—entered her warm home, erected her missing table, and waited for a response.
And the response that came was marvelous.
Marta, so elated, so grateful to finally have a table at which to eat, insisted on preparing a meal for Richard. That same evening, Richard and Marta christened her new table by sharing a Russian feast for two.
Later that night, Richard went home to his wife and told her about his extraordinary day. Wanting to thank Marta formally, but knowing that she wouldn’t be able to read English, he and his wife decided to thank her in Russian. Richard wrote out his thank you note, and his wife, using Google Translate, carefully transcribed the note into Cyrillic.
When Marta received Richard’s note in the mail, she was brought to tears. Lara, Marta’s social worker, says that she has never seen her so happy. “It was so sweet! She called him ‘Richard the Lionheart.’”
“I feel a connection with each client regardless of what I do, how often I do it, or how long.”
When Richard started as a volunteer in our Client Needs Program in January of 2011, he was the perfect guy for the job. A semi-retired electrician and contractor, he is as handy as they come, making him the ideal volunteer to deliver microwaves and refrigerators, and help clients with everything from moving furniture around to changing a light bulb.
A San Francisco native, Richard has connected with Meals On Wheels’ clients from the beginning. Reflecting on his experience with Marta, he says, “It was a simple thing to do, but she was so happy.” And that is the foundation of altruism, Richard has found – the small, simple things we can do to make others so very happy. “I feel a connection with each client regardless of what I do, how often I do it, or how long.”
Before long, Richard was doing so much more than helping clients around the house – he signed on to be one of our Home Delivered Grocery volunteer drivers, delivering weekly bags of fresh fruit, vegetables, and dairy. It’s been a privilege, he says, “getting a glimpse of people who are limited for some reason but somehow keep going. I get to see all this that you don’t usually see except when you deliver groceries.” Richard says the clients are “inspiring,” exhibiting “real courage, strength, resilience, dignity, and humility to ask and accept help.”
When asked what he enjoys most about volunteering, Richard says that he is grateful to be given the opportunity to “share a part of life as it unfolds.” It is certainly clear that these moments Richard shares with our seniors are as impactful for him as they are for the clients. For this, we at Meals On Wheels are eternally grateful, and – yes – inspired.