Linda, now 85 years old, grew up in war-torn Europe. She remembers the hardship, but also a sense of camaraderie, especially with her siblings. Together, they would comb fields for leftover wheat and thresh it in the living room. “We learned to live with less,” she reflects on her childhood.
She came alone to New York City in 1950 with only a few dollars, determined to make a better life for herself. Linda quickly found employment as a telephone operator at Columbia University and then as a bookkeeper for Icelandic Air. On her first day, a coworker chided her for eating a small sandwich. The next day, she brought Linda a thick roast beef sandwich. “It was enough for two or even three meals!” she cries, still shocked by American portions.
After nearly two weeks in the hospital, Linda was released. Down to a mere 80 pounds, she began receiving from Citymeals. “I love the meals!” she exclaims.
Linda is proud of the fact that she was never unemployed or dependent on someone else – but she always feared falling back into poverty. On the weekends, she cleaned houses and worked at a coffee shop. A lawyer who frequented the shop was so impressed by her tireless spirit that he hired her as his secretary. For three decades, she worked at the law firm and, when her shift was over, walked across the street to the coffee shop, closing up at midnight.
Waiting in line for food rations as a child impressed upon Linda the need to take care of those who had less. During the 1965 Blackout, she opened the showroom of the mattress store where she worked so those without heat could stay warm. And every night, when her shift at the coffee shop ended, Linda would take as many bags of day-old bread and pastries as she could carry to a homeless shelter before returning home in the wee hours.
Even with her busy schedule, Linda managed to find love with Max – an immigrant who survived the Holocaust and ran a small printing business in Queens. Tragically, after only two years of marriage, Max fell from a third-story window while doing home repairs. His back and ribs were crushed, his pelvis shattered – he barely survived. He remained confined to a bed for the rest of his life. While juggling two full-time jobs, Linda dutifully cared for Max. Only in his final years did she have help in caring for him.
Three years ago, Linda’s own health began to decline and she was forced to stop working. One day, a severe reaction to her medication caused her to cough up blood. She collapsed on the floor of her bedroom. She eventually crawled to the phone and dialed 911. After nearly two weeks in the hospital, Linda was released. Down to a mere 80 pounds, she began receiving meals from Citymeals. “I love the meals!” she exclaims with a beaming smile. They have helped her gain back seven pounds. And while she struggles to make do on her small savings, Linda always makes a small contribution to Citymeals because she knows others can give none.