She reached out for my hand and as she held on to me she said, in a sort of whimper, "I love you."
When loading into the car that morning to visit Ms. Molly (name changed) I didn't realize the impact a simple visit for an "exit interview" would have on me... or the impact of speaking on the phone earlier this week with an 80 year old woman who shared with me her life and constant battles living on a low income throughout her life. Also, she shared about her struggles with recently onset agoraphobia.
Each of these impactful moments happened as part of my new work at the Hinton Rural Life Center. The Hinton Center does home repairs, helps with landscaping, builds staircases and handicap ramps, etc. to over 100 homes each year in Western North Carolina. However, in my opinion it's biggest accomplishments involve visiting community members and building relationships with them.
Part of my job is to conduct exit interviews with different community members who received help from Hinton within the last two years. Hinton Center wants feedback in regards to the work accomplished and any suggestions the community may have. It is also a great way to stay in contact with those who have received help and show that Hinton still cares about them.
Something I quickly began realizing about this area is that many retirees are the majority of the people faced with the issue of poverty. Not just a financial poverty, but a social poverty as well.
I came to find out, for example, that Ms. Molly who should have family members taking care of her in her old age is stuck taking care of her only son who is around 40 but has lots of health problems. She can barely walk between her house and her son's house which is located just up the hill from her own and I just thought of how easy it would be for her to fall. Then, her desperate reaction to our short visit made me think it is not often that she receives visitors or gets to interact with people other than her son.
Yet, when I started thinking about her situation more, I realize her story of isolation and struggle is one of thousands in our nation. I think of the certain elderly who live almost abandoned as they live out the rest of their lives. Are they are fellow church members? Neighbors? Relatives?
I think of the volunteers from my home church who are dedicated to help deliver shut-in communion to church members who are unable to travel to church on Sundays. The time they spend sitting and listening to stories. How important that small amount of time can be!
I still feel Ms. Molly's grip as she shared such intimate words with me after just meeting me and think- how can we include our isolated elderly brothers and sisters into our communities more?