Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saying I Love You with Macaroni and Cheese

As seen in The Gadsden Times
Sunday May 21, 2006

I know one thing is true: when people are grieving, you feed them. A time honored tradition has, of late, caught my attention. I’ve always accepted this phenomenon without giving it much thought. But recently, I became an adult. I should clarify; as a married woman over the age of 30, I’ve taken my place as an adult woman in my church.
As a Southerner, a Christian, and lifelong (mostly) attendee of church, I’ve experienced the “gift of food while grieving” firsthand. When someone dies, people open up their freezers, their pantries, their cabinets, and most of all their hearts. Doris Greer, a wonderful lady at the church of my childhood, is a prime example of how it works. If a family member died, Doris was the captain of the team for meals. Obviously, others accompanied and contributed, but she’s the one who comes to mind. I can remember my mother, too, baking pies or casseroles for the same purpose. It just never occurred to me how much compassion was baked into them. As I said, I didn’t give much thought to the act, until now. Perhaps its because, at this advanced age, I’m coming to realize what it means to serve others. For whatever reason, the “need to feed” has really become clear.
Dear friends of mine lost their mother just this week. An army was set into motion as soon as the news broke. A group of people worked silently, behind the scenes, to figure out details. They calculated how many family members and friends would arrive from out of town and when. They delegated and designated. When I arrived with my offering, most all of the family had gone to the funeral home for family visitation. However, a neighbor had been posted to house-sit, receiving the food and guests that would inevitably come. Coolers of drinks had been brought, paper plates and napkins stood in force. The food sat, waiting to give comfort to those who came to the table. If pain could be eased with potato salad, I know many people who would still be peeling. As it is, the chicken and dumplings, the ham, the cakes, the sandwich trays, they offer a different consolation. The message conveyed is clear: “We love you.” “We want to care for you.” “Let us give you, at the very least, physical sustenance to help you through.”

This same army arranges, restocks, and cleans up when it’s time.
The dishes are washed, sorted and separated for return, the masking tape on the bottom identifying their owners. “Serving with a glad heart” has new meaning for me when I think of how this is accomplished.
When all is done, and the crowd goes away, the refrigerator will still stand full. Wrapped, sealed, and waiting: the leftovers of all the love a community could deliver

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