Once COVID-19 finally packs its ugly bags and leaves us alone, it will probably leave behind a few reminders.
As she prepared my coffee to-go Wednesday morning, the barista at Reza’s Roast coffee shop in the Oregon District was explaining to me how dark roast coffee is made. I was sad when her story was finished because it was the first in-person conversation I’d had since Monday.
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After coronavirus, I hope to remind myself not to take those daily, forgettable interactions for granted.
But for our elderly and at-risk neighbors who have to be completely isolated at home, they might go a week or more between those spirit-lifting conversations. Services like Meals on Wheels, however, are doing their best to make those gaps shorter.
“They wait on that driver to come and give them a meal, to come and give them a conversation,” said Mary Washington, supervisor of drivers. “Carol makes sure that they’re doing OK — almost like a wellness check.”
Carol Dietrich has been a Meals on Wheels driver for a year this April. Her own mother is 97 years old and on Friday, all before noon, she had delivered 14 meals and 14 conversations to elderly residents across the Miami Valley.
On a routine drop-off, Dietrich said one of her regular clients was feeling especially chatty.
“He’s like, ‘I haven’t been out and I’m not going to get to go out,’” Dietrich said. “He just really wanted to talk, telling me, ‘I saw this on TV today … and this yesterday.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to get out, but I want you to take care of yourself.’ So I just do that and make sure they get their bag of food — smile at them.”
Standing at least six feet back on the porch or sidewalk, Dietrich said she is having more of these interactions every day.
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No one should feel badly if they want to reach out to their shut-in neighbors, but maybe don’t know what to say to this person who might be scared. Dietrich said even the drivers are a little scared.
“I would just ask them, ‘Are you you doing OK?’ And I would tell them, ‘I’m worried too, but we’re in this together.’ And, ‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’”
So knock on that neighbor’s door, stand back an appropriate distance and ask them how they are doing — or ask if they like coffee and go from there.
Meals on Wheels is a free public service throughout the Miami Valley for residents 60 and older. A $2 donation is always recommended when receiving a drop-off.
Especially amid the coronavirus epidemic, Washington said the service is always taking new clients. If you or someone you know is 60 or older and unable to go out to safely get something to eat, contact them at 937-228-3663.
Sarah Franks is a Dayton Daily News reporter who will be writing a daily column on what people can do during the coronavirus outbreak. Have an idea or know someone who is doing something amazing? Email her at email@example.com or on Twitter @sarfranks.