I remember a time when people brought food. They brought food when someone fell and broke an ankle, when there was a new baby in the family, when there was a death, when someone moved into the neighborhood, when something happened to a friend or neighbor that was big and we knew that person or family needed a little extra support. It was a lovely thing, really, people reaching out to give what they could in a time when often, there is little we can do.
Having been on the receiving end of this type of love-in-action more times than I’d like, I also recognize that to be the recipient of so much food can become…complicated. Where to keep it in my crowded fridge? How to keep track of whose dishes are whose, and how to return them? The logistics alone can feel daunting. To say nothing of the need to tell someone how much you just loved their kale salad, when actually kale is one of my least favorite veggies.
Knowing all this, and being aware that food allergies and special dietary needs are much more prevalent today than they used to be, I think many of us hesitate to just bring a casserole or a batch of cookies over. Some of us reach out and ask what would be appreciated, but often, the extra layer of uncertainty causes us to just hold back on bringing food.
Which is unfortunate, not because food is always needed in times of distress and crisis, but because bringing food allowed us a way to bring each other into contact with people when they need other people the most and are often least able to reach out for comfort and human contact.
In minister training, they call this the “ministry of presence,” and all of us need it at times. Just having another human near us can be more important than anything else. It’s the touch of a hand, the look in the eyes, the message that comes through loud and clear: “I care. I’m here for you.”
If we don’t have the tradition of bringing food to give us an easy “excuse” to drop by an offer our presence, what new tradition can take its place?
May we realize that it’s not the food, or the words we say, or any other help we can offer that is what is most needed in a crisis or a difficult time. It’s just us. Let’s keep finding ways to be there for each other.
For as long as I can remember, autumn has been my favorite season of the year. I love the colors, brilliant leaves and misty mornings. I love the random piles of dry leaves that crunch underfoot, and the smell of fall in the air.
With the cooler weather and the beginning of the school and church year, a feeling of anticipation fills the air. It’s a new year, the chance for change, the possibility of bringing fresh perspectives and learning new things.
It’s interesting to me to feel this sense of newness, while plants and animals are preparing for the long, fallow winter. The lush green of summer turns to brown. Annuals die back and return their nutrients to the earth; trees draw their sap down into their roots so their branches won’t freeze in the coming cold. The little chipmunk who lives in our garden is furiously gathering food for the coming long hibernation.
Yet this apparent “dying” of the year is, in reality, the seedbed for the next season of growth. The greens of this past season, the harvest, the contours of the countryside, all change in preparation for something new that won’t be visible until spring.
I didn’t know all this as a kid. And though I grew to love school, in my early grade school years I didn’t like it much, so I don’t think that is why I felt happy and hopeful in the fall. Perhaps there is something in my bones that has always recognized the dying of summer as the real beginning of something new.
Whatever the reason, it’s easy to hope and dream in the fall. What do you hope for, in your life, in your church, in your world? The seedbed for change is being prepared, right now.
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