I was going to title this post, “It isn’t about the food.”
But it is.
I didn’t always make meals for people. And honestly, I don’t do it enough. In Miami, where I grew up, there are no memories of getting a meal or preparing a meal for neighbors. Bringing meals when tragedy strikes was not something I had heard of until my Sunday School class brought a meal to me when my mom died in 1999. I was 30 years old.
Humbled by this small token of help, I will never forget the feeling that came over me when my Sunday School friend brought the food in and set it on my counter. I was in puddles.
It was then the decision to do this for others was born. It is such a practical way to help someone when bad days come. And they do come. Especially when you feel you can’t do anything that seems tangible. It also blesses those times of celebration such a a baby being born; when cooking is the last thing you feel like doing.
But I have found that it isn’t always about the food. When my husband was diagnosed with MS, and I was still trying to wrap my brain around the whole thing, meals from friends and their selfless sacrifice behind them really got me through. The food was great, I mean, food always tastes better when you don’t actually make it yourself. But it was more.
I didn’t realize what a private person I was or how hard it was for me to accept help. I didn’t recognize my pride or even that it was pride. I have always been independent, taking care of myself since 13, working at 14, and taking care of my mom who was sick for many years.
Somehow I thought by accepting meals, I was admitting I couldn’t handle things. Now I know that refusing the blessing is refusing The Blesser. It is He who works through dear friends and angels.
It is more than the food.
I remember what a girlfriend of mine once told me, “A meal brought to you on a good day is a lifesaver”. And it is true.
Two years ago a close friend brought a meal to me on my birthday. It was one of the nicest, most personal birthday presents I have ever received. I will never forget it.
10 years ago, I started personalizing my meals with scripture. I use all recyclable, disposable containers or containers I do not need to get back. Once the size is determined, I write scriptures on aluminum foil with various colored sharpie markers including what it is, instructions for heating (if any) and wrap the food with it.
I put ‘bread of life’ verses on packages of bread and twist the words on the handle of milk jugs filled with sweet tea or homemade lemonade sincerely trying to personalize the scripture with the reason I am bringing the meal.
This can range from death, healing, long term illness, moving, encouragement, divorce, unemployment, financial crisis, miscarriage, surgery, birth of a baby, adoption, etc… or for no reason at all. I pray for each family as I make the meal and often get my kids involved either with the cooking or the delivering.
I don’t make as many meals as I would like to or as often as the inspiration comes, but I try. The blessing is two -fold. The recipient who knows the value of sacrificed time and can taste it.
And the giver who is blessed in the giving.
Some tips on making meals for others (discovered by experience and from blessings from friends):
- Determine if there are food allergies or food preferences, especially with the kids.
- Use containers the family can keep. The Dollar Store usually sells inexpensive aluminum cookware. Always have it on hand so you do not have to go get some when you need it.
- Make double of what you are preparing so you will have enough to feed your own family.
- Bring paper products for the family to use.
- Ask a mutual friend or friends to make part of the meal(s) with you.
- Brownies alone or just an entree is appreciated.
- Consider bringing breakfast such as a casserole or lunch items.
- If you have no time to cook, bring a bag full groceries such as ready to eat/easy to prepare foods.
- Include snacks for kids and Dollar Tree ‘things to do’ if family is doing a lot of time waiting in a hospital or to use for a big brother or sister.
- Organize a list of friends and use free on line tools to help such as Care Calendar or Take Them a Meal to do the work for you. Online tools can do more than help with scheduling meals. They can also allow you to schedule services such as housework, errands, or childcare and can also help with maps, driving directions, and email reminders.
What is your favorite tip for making meals for others?