“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”
— Charlotte Brontë
In tight-knit communities, the tradition of sharing food with a neighbor extends back generations. But as 24-hour food marts, ready-made meals and drive-through “delicacies” continue their relentless advancement, the practice of bringing food to a neighbor is becoming antiquated.
Ironically, today’s gift of time was anything but antiquated.
In December, my friend’s wife had suffered a stroke. It was especially difficult for him because they have two grown sons who are developmentally disabled and live at home. After her initial hospital stay his wife came home, but it took her a couple months to be able to perform the basic functions. She had to be assisted with many things. Caring for three adults took a toll on my friend, but he held his head high and smiled whenever I saw him.
Within the last couple weeks, I found out that he also has an adult daughter who has congenital heart failure. Her condition has grown from bad to worse as she suffered an episode while traveling and has only recently gotten out of intensive care, very weak, and needing much assistance. My friend is naturally helping his daughter.
Earlier this week I offered to bring him some meals he could reheat. Even though he is a proud man, he accepted. I think he’s tired.
Getting to the point – today, with the assistance of my daughter Hayle, we embarked on some antiquated sharing … of the lasagna persuasion.
Together, she and I made two batches. (And one for ourselves to make sure it was acceptable fare, of course.) Even though our pasta got all clumpy, we noodled around until we had produced two quite tasty looking meals.
I arranged to drop them off, taking Hayle with me. When we got there, our friend welcomed us and invited us in. We chatted for awhile, talking about everything from her recovery to cookie bars.
We also met their sons. They “boys” are unable to talk much so they grunted in the background. If you haven’t been around the developmentally disabled before, as my daughter hadn’t, it can be quite awkward. My experience is that their mannerisms are socially foreign, making it initially uncomfortable. My daughter handled the situation well, and although she was a little ill at ease, she held herself with grace as she talked with the adults. We shared our thoughts about it on the way home.
I was happy that I could share some food with my friend and glad that my daughter could see that just because a person is challenged doesn’t mean that they aren’t human.
Ironically, the food sharing wasn’t over for the day. Later that evening, there was knock on the door. It was our neighbor. She had run out of eggs. We were glad to offer her a couple, and my wife and I used the occasion to catch-up with her.
About nine that evening, there was another knock on the door. It was our neighbor again with some freshly baked banana bread and a cheery grin. “Thank you for the eggs. I made the bread without nuts because I didn’t know about allergies.” she said.
“No allergies in this house,” I replied. “Just a bunch of nuts.”
Today, we shared lasagna, banana bread, good conversation and some laughs.
Shared happiness through shared food. Still common among families, but less common among neighbors.
I know that today we don’t share food with our neighbors for the same reasons we did 100 years ago. Food scarcity, while not eliminated, is less common today so the need isn’t as pressing. Yet, we share other things when we give something to a neighbor – friendship and community. Those are the bonds which strengthen us. Those are the bonds worth maintaining.
Oh, and if you are curious, I heard that the lasagna was great.
Today’s gift of time … Together with my daughter, brought a meal to a friend who is going through a hard time.
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