She's 95 and lives alone. This important organization keeps her life feeling full.

She's still learning every day.

As we get older, sometimes our bodies get a little slower and our physical worlds get a little smaller. But that doesn't mean our minds or our hearts have to do the same.

95-year-old Ruth Bryant is proof of that.

She dedicated her life to helping people learn, teaching kids and adults on two continents — a dedication that earned her a presidential medal for service. Even now, when her life is mostly limited to her home, she's still learning — this time from her Meals on Wheels volunteers.


Ruth was born in Chicago, the youngest of five sisters. By the time she was 12, her mother was widowed and looking for a new place to raise her family.

They hit the road, trading the Windy City for balmy, sunny Santa Monica, California. The ocean breeze, the flowers, the people, the city — everything made them feel welcome. And they never looked back.

Pictured: Heaven, also known as the Santa Monica pier at sunset. Image via Michael Wu/Flickr.

As Ruth grew up in her new hometown, she focused her future on one goal: becoming a teacher.

After all, it's a profession that runs in her family.

Ruth's mom liked to tell her daughters about her time teaching kindergarten through sixth grade to students in a small one-room schoolhouse "in the middle of the country." Like many teachers at the time, she was only 15 — barely an adult herself — and would ride her horse to the schoolhouse to teach.

One day in the middle of lessons, she watched her horse get loose and run away. As any teenager would do in the situation, she ran outside, sat on the stoop, and started to cry. Then, one by one, her students came outside to comfort her until an entire classroom's worth of kids joined her crying on the stoop in solidarity and support.

For Ruth, hearing that story from her mom was the moment she knew she wanted to teach. "That's unconventional and unconditional love," she said. "I knew I wanted to experience that too."

Ruth's dedication to teaching and empowering kids stayed with her through her entire teaching career.

She learned quickly that her philosophy of teaching was a little out of the ordinary. Lectures followed by worksheets followed by tests — that kind of teaching might work for other educators. But Ruth wanted to do things differently.

"My philosophy is that if you have students and you tell them something and they know it, that can be forgotten right away," explained Ruth. "But if you present something in a creative way, they get immersed and they want to be a part of it. It becomes a part of their very being."

Ruth on the phone for this interview. Image by Angel Howe, used with permission.

Her unique, thoughtful, creative way of looking at things helped move her career in fascinating directions. Including Venezuela.

Accepting an invitation from two of her students, Ruth started visiting Venezuela as a volunteer teacher in the early 1970s. She fell in love with the country at first sight. Over the next three decades, she went back every single summer to train teachers in creative ways of educating, earning the nickname the "Teacher of Teachers."

After returning from a summer abroad in the mid-1990s, Ruth learned that she was being considered for an award. Suddenly, she was back on a plane to Venezuela to accept a medal for service from then-President Rafael Caldera and the Minister of Education. "It was a great, great, great honor to me to have a president of a country give me a medal for the work that I'd done in their country, a teacher from California," Ruth recalled.

Ruth's medal from the president of Venezuela. Image by Angel Howe, used with permission.

Though she retired many years ago, Ruth still values teaching — only the tables have turned a little.

Ruth started using Meals on Wheels a few years ago after it became increasingly difficult to leave her home and care for herself. For many of the same reasons she valued her students and fellow teachers, Ruth loves her Meals on Wheels volunteers.

Meals on Wheels, she said, has been an actual lifesaver, helping her stay independent and live in her home. And while she is grateful for the food, it's the community and companionship that she finds truly rewarding.

"I'm hoping that people will understand that the meal that is delivered is good for the body. But Meals on Wheels also delivers food for the soul. They deliver smiles, compassion, companionship."

For Ruth, her experience with her Meals on Wheels volunteers is an extension of her lifelong love of teaching — but she's the student now.

"I learn so much from the people who visit me with Meals on Wheels, about their lives and their stories. We form friendships and real, lasting bonds. This program makes a real difference in people's lives to remind them to keep going on and keep living," she said.

"Ultimately, it's about delivering happiness."

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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

SK-II

"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

SK-II

"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

Her mother, however, still envisions a different life for her daughter. "Deep in my heart, I hope she will change her mind one day," she said.

Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

Her mom is worried about her daughter not being able to find a boyfriend because she isn't "conventional."

"I really want her to find the right man and get married, to be seen as marriage material," she said.

After interviewing the women and their families, Couric helped them explore a visual representation of their timelines, which showcased the paths each woman sees her life going in contrast with what her relatives envision.

SK-II

"For each young woman, two timelines were created. One represents the expectations. The other, their aspirations," Couric explained. "There's often a disconnect between dreams and expectations. But could seeing the difference lead to greater understanding?"

The women all explored their timelines, which included milestones like having "cute babies," going back to school, not being limited by age, and pursuing dreams.

By seeing their differences side-by-side, the women and their families were able to partake in more open dialogue regarding the expectations they each held.

One of the women's mom's realized her daughter was lucky to be born during a time when she has the freedom to make non-traditional choices.

SK-II

"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

"There's a new generation of women writing their own rules, saying, 'we want to do things our way,' and that can be hard," Couric explained.

The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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