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Since I became a citizen last year, I’ve been reading a lot more American history. There’s so much I didn’t know about the people who built this country, about their suffering and triumphs.

Scotty Brown's eatery, Bellingham International Airport, WA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Sharing a meal at Scotty Brown’s, Bellingham International Airport, WA. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

This personal study of America’s past coincided with a Republican national convention with the dubious theme, “We built it!”

I ponder that slogan every time I learn more about U.S. history: Who built it?

The GOP convention left the impression that only wealthy whites built this nation.

This claim that only one group built this nation is facile, of course, and it helped show the country what’s wrong with Republican leaders: They just don’t get it.

But it also showed how willing one privileged group — white Baby Boomers — is to take public credit for others’ contributions. Oh yeah, baby, we did it all.

The elders I’ve met in this country are the ones who really did the building. The nurse who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the south, for the civil rights of African Americans and the dignity of the poor — she built it. She has worked as a nurse from the south to the far north, raised a family, taught other nurses, and is still working as a nurse in our community.

We forget all the hard work and longstanding contributions of such elders when some politicians in Washington and state capitals are screaming about slashing “entitlements” such as Social Security and Medicare. Even the use of the word suggests an arrogance that puzzles me, a newcomer.

(Every time I hear that word, I cringe. Isn’t a fat tax break considered an “entitlement” by the corporations receiving them? corporations with record profits, by the way? Isn’t the wonderful health care we give our politicians an entitlement?)

Amid all the furor about Social Security — built by contributions from workers who are now elders — we forget that many are still in need.

I didn’t realize that so many elders don’t get enough to eat.

1 in 7 in the richest country in the world!

That’s more than 8.3 million elders, and their numbers have increased by 34% since 2007, the official start of the recession.

I’ve learned this through the Meals on Wheels Association of America. I was drawn to their site, TheNextMeal.org, by a new ad campaign.

A black and white photo of an older man carries the headline, “Our veterans are hungry.” The man with the salt-and-pepper moustache looks weary. He’s wearing a vet’s cap. A wedding ring shines from his wrinkled left hand.

Other ads in this campaign carry similar messages: Our mothers are hungry. Our fathers are hungry.

Meals on Wheels delivers more than 1 million meals a day to elders in need.

Not only does this ensure the health of our older citizens (who truly built it!), but the selfless work of Meals on Wheels volunteers also provides a national safety net at no cost to taxpayers. Its volunteers provide companionship and a friendly “early warning system” if an elder is in trouble, or needs more immediate care.

Best of all, Meals on Wheels helps elders stay in their own homes, in their own communities, where most want to be. This saves a lot of money for all those people worried about the national debt — which we all helped build.

Meals on Wheels estimates it costs $7 for each nutritious meal it delivers. I’m sending $21 today to ensure that somewhere in my adopted country, some elder can share the healthy food which keeps me going, so I can build a little of this country too.

Meals on Wheels’ campaign asks: “Can you donate the next meal, ‘so no senior goes hungry®?’ ”

Giving Sundays learns about others’ needs, and shares that here, every Sunday.

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