84: Delivering Love, Receiving Hope

84: Delivering Love, Receiving Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

Delivering Love, Receiving Hope

One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.

~Gordon B. Hinckley

After my partner passed away from AIDS, I was deeply depressed. I didn’t know what to do. It seemed that I had lost my purpose in life, despite being a social worker in homeless shelters. At a staff meeting, one of my colleagues mentioned God’s Love We Deliver, a group of volunteers who were delivering meals to people living with HIV/AIDS during the height of the epidemic. I saw this as an opportunity to honor my partner’s memory by helping others who were struggling in much the same way that he had struggled.

Inspired by this idea, I made my way to the Upper West Side to meet the founders of God’s Love We Deliver — Ganga Stone and Jane Best—and to learn how I could get involved. That was twenty-eight years ago, and I’ve been a God’s Love volunteer ever since.

Those early years were critical — people living with HIV/AIDS were suffering and desperately needed help. As a volunteer for God’s Love, I would pick up donated meals from restaurants and deliver them to our clients in time for dinner. Sometimes a client would invite me in to sit and talk. I was always glad to spend time with them, knowing they were not only hungry, but lonely, too. In those moments, I’d be reminded of my partner, and I’d feel as if by helping others I was also helping him. So many family members, friends and strangers had been there for us when we were going through difficult times, and now I, too, was making a difference. Giving back was giving purpose to my life.

Ever since that day in 1987 when I began volunteering with God’s Love, I have been blessed with the opportunity to help those in need. So many of their faces are imprinted on my memory—a young mother, nearly blind from AIDS, and her son standing in their small, meagerly furnished room as I delivered their meals. Christmas was approaching, and my heart broke as I listened to the little boy recite the list of toys he hoped to get from Santa. I suspected the toys would never materialize. Again, I was inspired by the chance to be there for this family. I submitted their letter to “Santa Claus,” otherwise known as the generous New Yorkers of the Operation Santa Claus Project. A few weeks later the young mother and son received three shopping bags filled with toys. I was thrilled to help make their Christmas a little brighter.

I’ll always remember the client in Staten Island who had no food or money. When I arrived at his home with a weekend’s worth of food, I saw that he was severely ill. He asked me to stay, so I did, for four days. As I watched his health decline, I urged him to go to the hospital, but he refused out of fear. Finally, after I told him it was time for me to go home, he changed his mind and we rode together in an ambulance to the emergency room. At the hospital he learned that he had a blockage in his kidney, which was, thankfully, treatable. It has been an honor to be a point of contact through God’s Love for so many people who are sick and don’t have anyone else to assist them in getting the help they need.

Now, I am one of over 8,000 volunteers a year who support God’s Love We Deliver and the clients they serve. The chefs and kitchen volunteers cook nutritious meals for people affected not only by HIV/AIDS, but by a variety of life-altering illnesses, who can’t shop or cook for themselves. I have seen many changes at God’s Love and in New York City over the past twenty-eight years, but one thing remains constant: the God’s Love community has so much heart. The love we put into our work, and the love we put into the meals we deliver, always reaches the clients. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of it, and I know I gain more from volunteering than I will ever be able to give.

~James Strickland

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