I heard about the death of his wife from another neighbor, and I couldn’t get him off my mind. I had only met him once or twice, and was quite sure he wouldn’t recognize my face in a lineup. Either way, I felt obligated to do something. One thing I have learned is when we don’t know how to reach out in someone’s time of need food is a surefire way to start. So I decided to speak the universal language of love: deliver a meal.
I decided to take him chicken noodle soup and headed down the street and descended his immaculate blacktop driveway lined with towering pines around 6 p.m. Several things were running through my mind that almost made me turn back. First, this man didn’t really know me. Second, how would I explain that I heard about his wife’s death? Third, I repeat, he didn’t know me, and this could get quite awkward.
But my angst over the grief he must be feeling after being married for decades and now being alone in that big house in the woods kept my feet moving even though my insecurity wanted to turn back.
When he answered the door, the look on his face was elation, not wonder. I said, “I made some soup and thought you might like some.” To my relief, he welcomed me in and proceeded to tell me that he had just made a microwave dinner for one that was inedible. Then he said, “I can’t believe it, your timing is perfect. Here you are with soup for dinner!”
Over the weeks that followed I shared many treasures from my table, and we became fast friends. And I was reminded that when someone is in need, a simple meal speaks love more effectively than our feeble mouths ever could.
3 Guidelines for Successful Meal Delivery
Bring your Go-To Meal
Bringing someone a meal doesn’t have to be an occasion wrought with fear. Your abilities don’t have to rival Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray or Betty Crocker. Stick with a dish you’re good at or make regularly. The key is do what you do best and “go to” that recipe when you want to deliver someone a meal.
My go-to is Chicken Noodle Soup, and I keep the ingredients on hand so that I’ve already won half the battle, meaning I don’t have to fit in a trip to the store and find time to cook. If you’re not sure what recipe is your go-to, ask your family to tell you their favorite meal you make.
Follow the Rules
If someone is facing a long-term illness or hardship, often there are meal sign ups or coordination of food. If so, find out if there are suggested delivery times, allergies, or special considerations. If not, inquire of the family to be sure you know what’s acceptable. Any guidelines or suggestions about meal delivery should be followed to the letter.
Don’t assume you can be the exception to the rule, because other people will think they are too. And that adds up to a lot of late deliveries, inconsistencies and stress added to the family/person who already has a plateful.
Bring Disposable Dishes
Whatever dish, container or device you use for delivering a meal to someone in need, it’s imperative that you never expect to see it again. If you’ve ever faced a life-altering loss or trial, you know lots of details fall through the cracks. So please don’t bring your favorite china serving dish across the street to a grieving family, because the last thing they need is to worry about who it belongs to, or returning it to the rightful owner. You are solely focused on the meal, its presentation, and contents, but they are often not thinking clearly, and later they may not even be able to connect the dots on what meal or dish came from where.
Be prepared with a stash of disposable plastic and aluminum ware of all sizes to help ensure you don’t have to bring your own dishes. As an added bonus you can include a note that says, “I hope you enjoy the meal, and rest assured I don’t need any of these dishes or containers back.”
Delivering someone a meal can be easier than you think. With a little thoughtfulness and planning, you’ll be on your way to speaking the universal love language of food. And before you know it you just might find yourself headed down someone’s driveway carrying a disposable container of Chicken Noodle Soup.
For more practical ways to support friends or family through the rough patches of life, pick up a copy of Sarah Beckman’s, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, February 2017. www.alongsidebook.com