This is a guest post from a generous reader who responded to my request for “reader driven” Monday Missions. I enjoyed reading her ideas on using food as a blessing, which inspired yesterday’s actual Monday Mission, and I hope you are challenged and inspired, too. -Katie
It all started as a conversation around the garbage can on trash day.
My elderly widowed neighbor and I were partaking in our ritual Trash Day Small Talk. She looked at her watch, then up at the sky – as if pondering the weather. She sighed. “Guess I should go to the grocery store. It’s just so hard to cook for one.” We chatted about the rising prices of groceries, food we liked eating, and our mutual disdain for the never-ending curse of dirty dishes. As we wheeled our garbage cans back to our respective houses, she chuckled in parting: “Let me know if you ever have leftovers you don’t want!”
I would love to tell you that the light bulb came on. That the heavens parted. That I ran inside to bless my neighbor with dinner. (We’re a family of voracious eaters – we always have food on hand.)
Taking a quick moment to help her out would seem logical, right? But I have to confess something embarrassing: I didn’t.
Fast forward three years. Yes, I said it was embarrassing.
Over the last three years I have teamed up with a ministry at our church called Kitchen Kindness – a group of people who pitch in meals for those in need, like moms with newborns or folks recovering from surgery. My family has also been on the receiving end of Kitchen Kindness meals due to my lengthy stint on bed rest from preterm labor. Receiving over 90+ meals certainly makes you appreciate the gift of food!
While it was natural for me to think of offering food to a friend in crisis, I never considered offering food to my neighbors “just because.” Well, until one day recently.
The Gift of Soup
Thanks to Katie’s Monday Mission on making bone broth, I make a monstrous pot of soup most Monday nights and we eat it for an easy lunch for the rest of the week.
This particular Monday, I divided out the soup for the week … and I had just ONE cup of soup left. Sure, I could freeze it. But one serving? Really? For a family of four? My freezer was already well stocked with little servings of soup. I groaned at the prospect of adding more.
And that’s when my conversation from three years ago came rushing back. With a twinge of nervous excitement, I picked up the phone and called my neighbor.
“Hello, Florence? It’s Bethany from next door. Would you like some soup?”
The Joy of Sharing
So began a beautiful relationship of sharing food with my neighbors – just because. This past summer we baked mini-loaves of bread and delivered them steaming fresh to nine of our neighbors. (Note to self: be sure to grease those adorable disposable cardboard pans. Nothing like giving away food that is STUCK to the dish. Oops.) At Christmas we delivered cookies. This winter we shared multiple bowls of hot soup at dinner time.
Now, please don’t look at me like some sort of magic Food Fairy who lives in a small Mayberry-esque town. We live in a closed-door neighborhood where everyone is treated as strangers and nobody waves at each other. It still takes guts for me to knock on the door of someone who barely knows me with fresh food in my hands. However doing so has opened doors of conversation that I never thought possible.
Shared food has a way of breaking down barriers.
Two weeks ago, my own doorbell rang. A neighbor baked me a homemade carrot cake as a way of saying thanks for caring about them.
The art of sharing food doesn’t have to require herculean effort. It can be a few slices of fresh bread or two muffins on a plate. It can be a pint jar of soup or a few fresh tomatoes from the garden. It’s often those spur-of-the-moment gifts that create the biggest blessings.
Sharing Food You Disagree With
I consider our family a “whole foods, slow food” family. We eat very little processed food, making pretty much everything from scratch. We enjoy our homemade yogurt, farm-fresh eggs, and local honey. When I share food with others, I am usually sharing extras of what our family already eats.
Warning: What I’m about to write is very, very controversial.
It’s okay to share processed food that you don’t agree with.
It’s okay to give away food you wouldn’t normally buy for your own family.
I recently had the opportunity to bless a friend with a stash of homemade lunches. She’s at that awful stage of pregnancy where just the smell of food makes her queasy and her energy is zapped. She was drowning in self-imposed mommy guilt because she was struggling to spend time in the kitchen.
So I decided to make 2 weeks’ worth of lunches that could be stored in the freezer until needed. I wanted to give them something affordable, FUN, and nutritious. Something her 5-year-old could help prepare, and that her entire family would be eager to eat. So I made and froze 30 PB+J sandwiches, bought 10 jars of their favorite canned fruit, and purchased frozen vegetables in microwavable steam-fresh bags.
This took a big stretch for me. We don’t own a microwave – by choice. We don’t eat canned fruit cocktail – by choice.
And THAT’S the tricky thing in blessing people with food. It’s not speaking love to them if it’s not something they are going to enjoy. Yes, it feels a little strange to purchase cocktail fruit cups — because it’s something I would never do for my family. But my friend was desperate for an alternative to McDonalds and they enjoy fruit cocktail cups. She’s not asking for help: I’m blessing her with a surprise.
So I’m okay buying something that I normally disagree with, because I know that it will be received with relief, gratitude, and open arms.
Because I can still be God’s blessing to them — even if the food isn’t the “best” food. I can’t let my personal preferences (“oh, I’d NEVER buy that”) keep me from helping meet the needs of others.
A Final Visit from the Neighborhood Food Fairy
A few months ago, a young neighbor had a baby. A week after they got home from the hospital, I knocked on her door with hot soup in hand. In the seven years we’ve lived here, we’ve done little more than wave in passing. So to see me on her doorstep – food in hand – overwhelmed her. Her eyes welled up with tears in gratitude. She later returned my jars with a note: “If you ever have more leftover soup, please let me know!”
This time I didn’t wait three years to take her up on her offer.
Have any extra food in your home? Do you have a neighbor you can share your leftovers with? Give it a try and share your story below!
Bethany lives in Ohio with her wonderful husband, delightful 5-year-old daughter, and adorable 2-year-old son. When she’s not busy making a disaster in the kitchen, she enjoys taking all-day cycling excursions with her family and reading books. She comes from a long line of cooks, including ancestors who were chefs to German royalty. Despite her chops in the kitchen, she is completely unskilled at vegetable gardening. (Her consolation is knowing that in a zombie apocalypse, her role would be the town baker and not farmer.) A long-time KS reader, Bethany is thankful for Kitchen Stewardships’ baby-steps and Monday Missions that have completely transformed her family’s life.
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If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money. If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.
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