Make-and-Take Kindness

    Why Delivering a Meal to Friends in Need is Just the Best

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    Community. Neighbor. Kindness. In times of joy, pain, loss, and need, bringing a meal to others is an everyday act that can bring these words to life. I would be lying if I said one of my favorite memories about bringing a baby home from the hospital wasn’t the meals delivered to us by so many generous people. After thirty-eight hours of labor, I finally got to hold that precious bundle who would not be letting me sleep – much less cook – anytime soon. Every morsel I put in my mouth that I didn’t have to cook myself was 5-star worthy. When I was pregnant with babies two and three, I was already hoping for and looking forward to these blessings to the heart and belly.

    These days, most families are lucky if they get to cook for their own households. So how can we consider cooking for others, even if we really want to? If you have tons of time and love to cook, go for it! For most of us, though, this isn’t the norm. My advice? Keep it simple. Since I happen to enjoy cooking, one of my favorite things to do is to make a double-batch of a family dinner and put half in the freezer for an impromptu meal for someone else. Most of these main dishes are easily paired with a salad and bread. (In Richmond, you know this means White House Rolls!)

    Looking for a simpler idea? Pick up a rotisserie chicken, order pizza to be delivered, bring takeout from their favorite restaurant, or drop off a dozen bagels. Who said the meal has to be dinner? Remember, the idea is to show a gesture of kindness, and kindness doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Keep it simple, so your good intentions don’t get stopped in their tracks.

    If you need help with organizing efforts – whether for school, work, neighborhood, etc. – and you’re wondering if a need exists in one of your communities, take advantage of sites like Take Them a Meal, Meal Train, and Sign Up Genius.

    No matter how you decide to do it, a meal is a welcome addition to any home for numerous reasons.

    New Baby

    Having a new baby affects everyone in the family, whether it is baby number one, five, or ten! Everything was overwhelming when our oldest son was born. We were both healthy, and it had been a textbook delivery, yet bringing him home from the hospital was terrifying. How could I be completely responsible for another life? So tiny and fragile – surely I had to watch him twenty-four hours a day to ensure he was breathing. Many new moms have rough deliveries and are dealing with pain, extended healing times, and the baby blues. A meal may seem like a small gesture, but it has a huge impact on the life of a family with a new baby; likewise, for a family who has adopted a child.

    Someone is Sick

    Our son was nine years old when an ER doc discovered he had a benign brain tumor (another story in itself). Over the course of a month, we visited countless doctors and specialists, and scheduled appointment after appointment, all while grieving the larger impact of the diagnosis, the impending surgery and treatments, and the “what ifs” that could affect his young life. At the same time, we were trying our best to shield him from any anxiety and to help him continue a normal childhood, which included finishing his Little League season. This chaotic and stressful time consumed hours of every day with research, tests, and evaluations. It was mentally and physically draining, but our friends surrounded us in love, prayers – and food.

    Death in the Family

    My friend Margie says grief is physical. When my grandfather recently passed away, we had a sweet time with family, visiting with old friends and cousins we hadn’t seen since the passing of my grandmother. The tears flowed off and on, and the effect on my body was as if I was fighting the flu. I was lethargic and exhausted, my head felt foggy, my eyes wouldn’t open all the way without a dull ache behind them. No doubt it was physical. There is something very special about a funeral in a small town – so many knew we were in pain and reached out. We never wanted for food and received everything from ham biscuits (delivered in pizza boxes), to pound cake and pies, to luncheon meat trays and deviled eggs. At the conclusion of the service, all the comforting smells of a fried chicken dinner filled the air in the church hall. Our hearts were full, and so were our plates.

    New Home

    Raise your hand if you love moving. It is very exciting! The beautiful new house is just waiting to be made into a home – your home. But the work it takes to get there is something different altogether. Months of packing, arranging logistics, the actual moving day – which often turns into moving days – and the closing are followed by isolated weeks of unpacking, living from boxes, and just trying to find things in your new place. Welcoming new neighbors into the neighborhood with the gesture of a meal is both a bridge to a new friendship as well as a welcome respite for them from the long hours of cleaning and unpacking.

    Stress

    Sometimes in life, it goes from raining to pouring. Maybe we can’t point to just one life event, but the accumulation of day-to-day stresses just sends us over the edge. Last year, my son’s teacher had a child of her own diagnosed with a major medical condition, lost her grandmother and a grandfather-in-law, started grad school, and had her house broken into, all within the span of about nine months. Can you say ongoing stress? Medical appointments, school, and travel made it difficult to nail down a time or a way to help relieve some of her pressure, so I made a quick meal that could be easily frozen and dropped off for her to have on whatever day she needed it. A meal can be just the thing to lift a friend’s spirits, infuse her with the energy to get through another day, and help her to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    And finally, there’s one more reason to take someone a meal! Just because. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a break from the daily grind and just to know someone cares? I know I would. And to be honest, it feels just as good to be the one doing the giving as it does to be on the receiving side.

    Photos: Loren Rosado

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    Hollie Gilman
    Hollie Gilman is a Richmond native who lives in Midlothian with her husband and three teenagers. She spends most of her time running a business, homeschooling, driving, and sitting on bleachers (because she’s a mom). She loves to find the humor and encouragement in the common experiences so many busy parents share.