So here's the thing. I want to be more generous. I want to actively care for the people in my life better. To be honest, and Matt can confirm this-- my New Year's Resolution this year was exactly that: to be more generous. I even BUDGETED for it-- to be sure that I always had a little extra cash to be generous with. So this isn't just something I woke up and realized today. I know that actively helping and caring for friends and folks in my community is important. I just suck at actually doing it. The main issue (and this may seem silly to you, but this one 'act of caring' has seriously been a mental hangup for me for YEARS now) is taking meals to people.
I don't know if it's common where you live, although based on what I see on your blogs that represent a vast array of cities and cultures, it seems like a widespread practice, but 'round here, when something good/bad/hard/exciting happens, people take meals. You have a baby? People bring you meals. You lose a baby? People bring you meals. Your whole family has the flu? We show up with meals. And (in theory) I love this. What a loving and practical way to fill a need, right? Take care of the thing that highly stressed/tired/bereaved people really need but may not be able to currently take care of on their own. It makes sense and it's perfect.
Only...I suck at it. And then I kinda just quit doing it. When I was first a 'grown up,' I had a few good years. The first couple (dozen) friends/church families that had babies? They got a meal from me. It was probably even good. And hot. But somewhere along the way, I quit doing it. I know why I quit at first- it had nothing to do with the logistics of taking people food and everything to do with the emotional difficulty of being around families with newborn babies. And I'll give myself a pass for that. Whatever. It's fine. But then somewhere along the way, I just quit doing it for anything. New babies, fine, pass...but that shouldn't have given me an excuse to opt out of taking a meal to the family dealing with chemotherapy, or the friends dealing with the untimely and tragic death of a parent. But after a few years of being in the habit of not taking meals...now I can't figure out how to get back on board. It's the logistics. Let me give you my laundry list of reasons why it's too hard for me (so that you can dismantle them later and tell me to stop being a jerk and get over it).
1. We get off work at 5. It takes at least a half hour to get home. So- best case scenario, we get home from work and can begin preparing a meal at 5:30.
2. I can't even fathom a meal that would take less than 30 minutes to cook, so let's just ballpark that it takes 40 minutes to whip something up. We'll pretend that I was uber-prepared for this and set all the ingredients out in the morning so that I could jump right in when I got home. Alright. It's 6:10.
3. NOW the issue is that we live way the heck out in the boonies. A reasonable estimate is that it'll take us 30 minutes to get to the house we're delivering to. Depending on what part or suburb of Athens they live in, that could easily be 45 minutes. There are a few rare folks who live a little closer, so it may only take 20 minutes to drive, but really...let's just ballpark 30 minutes.
**DURING THIS SUPER LONG DELIVERY PROCESS, THE FOOD IS GETTING COLD. This is one of my super huge main hangups. Who wants cold food? Not me. The main kind of thing that would NOT be getting super cold during this drive would be a casserole that I could put in my little Pyrex cover thing...but a casserole would have required a much longer cooking time in the oven, meaning that Step 2 would be more like an hour or so.**
4. So, depending on the cook times/drive time, maybe we'd be lucky to get to your house at 6:50 or 7:00. That may work for many people. But some people have really particular dinner times and schedules. My church usually uses Take Them A Meal to coordinate meals, and that means that the meal recipients can list their preferred time to eat. Now I understand that most people would probably just be thankful for food no matter what time it comes, but what if you're the family with a couple toddlers that REALLY EAT AT 6:00 and anything later than 6:07 throws off their whole night? So...does that family have to feed the kids at 6 and then pretend to be thankful when I show up with (cold) food at 7:00?? I don't know. But the thought of this stresses me out.
5. The actual food hand-off. AWKWARD. Do you stick around? Just hand it over and run? Watch them eat? Eat with them? Ugh.
6. In the meantime, and related to Step 5...when do I get to eat?!?!? I'm a hungry girl. I'm usually ready for dinner at approximately 3:00 p.m. So if we're pushing 7:00 and I haven't eaten AND I don't even know what or when I'm going to eat, I'm probably hangry. I'm probably NOT in the mood to coo over your freakin newborn. I'd probably rather grill her and eat her. (Gross, not really.) So like...do I have to go back home and cook AGAIN? Do we stop for fast food on the way home? Because fast food is really going to be sucky compared to whatever I just spent 40 minutes cooking earlier. This is another major roadblock in my quest to take a meal. Deep in my soul, I'm a selfish, hungry person. I'm worried that if I take a meal, I may actually starve to death myself or something.
|We interrupt this wall of text to share a random and unrelated selfie that includes the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC. This is the face of someone that wants to take people meals but has too many psychological issues to pull it off. Help!|
Okay. That's basically the narrative that goes through my mind when thinking about taking a meal to someone. I didn't even touch on the stress that comes with figuring out what to FIX. We'll just assume that an angel visited me in my sleep and revealed the perfect dish that circumvents all of the other family's allergies and preferences, while also taking only 40 minutes to prepare and consisting of affordable, easily purchased ingredients.
A great solution would be to do something in the Crock Pot. Sadly, that basically doesn't work for us because we're gone from home for too long. We leave at 7:30 a.m. and can't get home til 5:30...that's 10 hours. Most recipes max out at 7 or 8 hours on low in the Crock Pot. Another solution would be doing (home made) frozen meals...you know, delivering them frozen. We do this a lot at church. This definitely would fix most of the issues relating to delivery and the post-work crunch...I could make it on a weekend and deliver it whenever and then they could warm it up whenever they needed it. This is honestly probably the best method for me except that I get PARALYZED WITH FEAR when trying to figure out what kind of meal would freeze well and at what point in the recipe you actually do the freezing. But this is probably a good place to start easing myself back into the meal delivering game.
I probably could have gone on for the rest of my life without ever getting back in the meal delivery game except for I experienced for myself how meaningful and helpful it actually is. When we lost Ellison, we were on the receiving end of the meals for several weeks. Even though we actually weren't busier than ever with a sweet little baby, we were too much of a mess to even brush our teeth in the morning, much less figure out what to eat, go to the store to buy the ingredients, and then cook it. The fact that so many families overcame all of the obstacles (hello-- the SAME ONES THAT I FACE! We live as far away from them as they live from us!) and came all the way out to our house hauling soups and casseroles and toddlers now horribly off of their schedules...and came to not see a cute new baby, but a crying and miserable couple...and they hugged us and told us they were praying, and they filled a physical need in our lives? I will never, ever forget that. They couldn't have known how much that meant to us. That they weren't too scared to come when we were at our worst. That they sacrificed their schedules, their preferred personal eating times, and their gas money. It blessed me beyond measure.
And so that's why I'm determined to move past my millions of excuses for not helping. My reasons are all pretty valid, but so what. I need to get over it. And right now there are THREE families in my life that I really want to take a meal, so it's time to get going.
If you can offer any help for any of my roadblocks, I'm all ears (or...eyes, as the case may be). Recipes for yummy and freezable meals? A testimony that you got meals and you really didn't care if they came at 7:00 and lukewarm? Help me help my friends, people!