As a mother of hungry teenagers, I know, all too well, the challenges that come from having hungry mouths to feed. So when I learned that 70-year-old Charlotte Tidwell feeds more than 7,000 hungry mouths a month, using her own pension, I was inspired to share.
While many people of retirement age are living quietly in the shadows, Charlotte Tidwell is a ray of sunshine and a rare kind of beautiful. Charlotte has spent her entire life in the service of others, something passed down from her mother.
After 32 years working as a nurse, Charlotte retired. But instead of taking a relaxing vacation to celebrate her retirement, she started a food pantry for the hungry and poor in her community. Charlotte has run Antioch for Youth & Family tirelessly now for 16 years. She is up by 5:30 every morning and works 12 hours a day, six days a week, to meet the needs of the people in her community.
Not only does she feed the hungry, but she also cooks lunch for the children who frequent her pantry, provides transportation for the elderly, helps the unemployed find work and counsels troubled youth who need support and a listening ear.
Charlotte lives on very little and puts all the money she has into purchasing and distributing food to feed more than 7,000 people who frequent her pantry every month. In addition to spending her own pension, Charlotte visits local grocery stores to retrieve food being taken off the shelves and often receives donations from local churches to help in her efforts. She has also started a large community garden to grow her own vegetables so she can feed even more people.
In 2009, after witnessing a senior citizen purchase dog food for his own consumption because it was all he could afford, she expanded her efforts to include a senior mobile pantry. With her mobile pantry, Charlotte visits local nursing and retirement homes every week to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement the nutritional needs of the seniors who live there.
Charlotte's energy and desire to serve is something we all can learn from.
"People tell me I should take a vacation," she says, "But I truly love what I do. I grew up helping people, and it gives me a sense of purpose. I'm looking to make an even greater impact. And I can't think of another way I'd rather spend my time."
I hope that, like Charlotte, we can all find those things in our lives that give us a sense of purpose and drive us to make a greater impact in the world around us. And I hope we teach our children to do the same. Charlotte's story teaches that a purpose-driven life is a life of happiness and hope not only for her but also for all whose lives she touches with her service.