Five colleagues and I spent the morning delivering meals to in-need senior citizens who live within a ten-block radius of Grand Central Station. “Need” is defined by low-income, or by a lack of mobility according to CityMeals on Wheels, who I coordinated todays volunteer activity with. But what was the most shocking to me was how different each of their apartment buildings and apartments were when we got to their buildings.
Some were narrow walk-ups where the resident receiving the meal lived on the fifth floor. When I first moved to New York and was 22 years old, the idea of a fifth floor walk-up completely disgusted me. So if I were 60 years older than that, I don’t even think I’d be capable of walking up those types of stairs, especially while carrying anything of any weight. When this particular resident opened his door, it was obvious as soon as the door opened that the apartment, not to mention the building, was ill-kept, that the place reeked of uncleanliness and body odor, not to mention just pure filth. I felt pretty terrible for them, but hoped that they were able to use the food we were providing.
Then, there was the opposite extreme — luxury buildings with extremely formally dressed doormen who interrogated us regarding where we were from, what our purpose was, and if we were really only delivering meals, then why did we need three young women to deliver one meal to one resident in this building? When we were admitted into the building, we were shocked to discover a hidden courtyard inside that was massive — you could probably even host a wedding out there. When we got up to this woman’s floor, she opened her door to reveal the most extensive home library behind her that I’d ever seen a real person’s home. The ceiling where at least twelve feet high, and her decorations made her apartment seem like a museum.
These are the disparities of the rich and the poor, all within a short walking distance of each other. In some way, that is how diverse New York City is, and in others, it’s how depressing this place can be.