As a member of the relief society, I have had many chances to serve. A lot of women who have been members of the Relief Society have made (and even received) a dinner or two when another family finds themselves in a time of need.
In the past, I have been tempted to think, “I don’t want to do the same old thing, and just make a meal for someone. I need to do something that is more special.” Of course, I have yet to find something more universally appreciated than a meal – cooked with love – brought to a family that is grieving, healing, or struggling through a hard time.
Not only that, but I have been the recipient of many meals. There is no dinner that tastes better than the dinner someone brings you on the night you return home from the hospital! It is such a relief to have something hot and ready to eat – without the fuss of preparation and clean-up.
Okay, so these are practical reasons why meals are great. But that’s not really what this post is all about.
I have had a few great experiences with bringing people meals lately, and I want to share a few insights from each experience.
A few months ago, I took a meal to a woman who had undergone surgery that week. My in-laws were visiting, but I knew that I could make some pasta, red-sauce, a salad, and some cream-cheese brownies relatively quickly. It is especially fun to involve the kids in cooking and bringing the meal.
We made the meal and delivered it. When I brought it over, I was able to meet the woman who had the surgery. As I set the meal on her counter, she was brimming with gratitude. She complimented me on my generosity, and I insisted that it was nothing, it was the least I could do, and I hoped that she was feeling okay.
I set the food on the counter, and looked at her, and I could see her – I didn’t know her, but I knew that Heavenly Father loved her. I felt it as soon as I looked her in the eye. I could immediately see that she had gone through a lot of pain and physical suffering. Her life had been in danger (the reason for her surgery). I felt so much sympathy and love for her in those few moments. I realized that making a dinner for her not only helped by giving her something she needed, but it was helping me by cluing me into the love that Heavenly Father has for all of us. I felt happy, knowing that in a simple way, I was easing her burden.
I wished that I could do more for her at that moment, yet there wasn’t much to do other than comfort her, hug her, and care. I asked her how her surgery went. I asked her if she was feeling better. She explained to me, in great detail, the cause of her surgery and the pain that she was still suffering. I realized that she only needed a listening ear. I could relate – I have been in pain. Sometimes, the best service someone can provide is a validation of that pain and hurt. I guess that what I’m saying is that sometimes, we can mourn with those that mourn. Sometimes, that’s just what we need – what will comfort us.
I was deeply touched by her – testimony, hope, but most of all – for the intense love that I knew the Lord has for her.
Another woman in my ward recently had a baby, and I signed up to bring her a meal. I was fortunate to be bringing her the first meal that she had back at home.
What a joyous moment! Even though I didn’t know this woman or anyone in her family, I could feel a bit of the joy that they were sharing – that inexplicable joy that accompanies the birth of every new child. They were still in the haze of becoming new parents. They were proud of their tiny daughter. They were tired. They were spent.
We brought a home-made pizza. It wasn’t much, but I knew what it was like to be in her shoes: thanks to a simple meal, she could stay on the couch, holding her little one, with dad at the wings and without worrying about cooking, cleaning, and everything in between.
They brimmed with gratitude and that sleepy-eyed-pride of parenthood.
And I was blessed – I saw the little girl, amazed that my own kids were once this small. In an instant, I recalled each time I came home with my own children – overwhelmed with emotions, happiness, and exhaustion. I remembered the way that they cried, and how quickly all of that changed. I didn’t long for another child (we’re done with that for now!), but I was happy for them. I was so happy for them, and grateful to get a little glimpse in on the happiness of another family along with the reminder of my own blessed experiences.
A few weeks ago, a woman was thrown from a horse. She needed to have a lot of medical treatment. I don’t remember the extent of her injuries, I just know that they were bad!
I signed up to bring her a meal. We were planning on making enchiladas, guacamole, salsa, and some brownies, but we would need to go to the store. When we got to the supermarket, I had a thought to make lemon bars instead of brownies. I figured it was just because I hadn’t made them in a long time, and it would be fun to make something different.
I bought the things I needed for lemon bars, and I also found this really cute plate – with lemons on it. Perfect for her dessert! Plus, she wouldn’t have to remember to return any dishes. So, we bought the lemons and the lemon plate, and we went home to make the dinner and dessert.
When I dropped the food off to her, she was delighted to see the lemon bars. My oldest daughter was with me. Before I had even set the food down on the counter, the woman had taken a lemon bar. She excused herself for being so impatient, explaining, lemon bars are my favorite! I didn’t tell her this, but at that moment, I was overcome with a realization – of course they were her favorite, Heavenly Father knew this, and that He not only wanted to bless her, but that He was happy with me for listening to what seemed like a pretty inconsequential impression.
My daughter – Tiger – was also able to be there for this experience. When we got in the car, she said, “It was cool how excited she was for the lemon bars.” What a perfect teaching experience. I was able to tell Tiger that I had been prompted to make lemon bars, and now we knew why. Heavenly Father loves us, and knows us individually. He loves blessing us – even with something as simple as our favorite dessert.
Today, I delivered a plate of brownies to a family for their upcoming funeral. I didn’t know who had died until only a few minutes before I left to deliver the brownies. The brownies ended up being for the funeral of this woman’s two-week-old grandson who died of SIDS.
I read the email containing this information, and was comletely heartbroken. As I drove the brownies over, it didn’t seem fair to me that my children have all been born healthy. It didn’t seem fair that this woman’s daughter was experiencing all of the after-effects of giving birth to a child: Hormonal changes, more body changes, healing, and pain – all without the benefit of the child. No child, yet constant reminders of the baby who had come and left so quickly. I’m not sure if I’d be able to bear a challenge like this.
I dropped off the brownies. The woman I delivered them to knew me – she remembered my records being read into my ward, but I had no idea who this woman was. I brought her the brownies, and expressed my condolences on her front porch.
She was sweet, hopeful, and grateful. I was flooded with the emotions as I thought of the grief that this sweet family had to endure. I was also overwhelmed by the love I knew that Heavenly Father had for her. I hugged her. She kept insisting that she wouldn’t cry. She was busy, so I let her go.
I wonder if she could feel the love that Heavenly Father has for her. I know that I felt it so strongly.
And I realized something – service helps us develop charity – not only because we learn to put others before ourselves, but because we learn to see how God sees others. In each of these instances I shared today, I had a feeling, Heavenly Father really loves these people (family, etc). I knew that it wasn’t my own feeling towards anyone – I didn’t know a single person. I was reminded – these are God’s children he loves them so much. He loves all of us so much.
All of this because of a silly little dinner.
What do you do to find opportunities to serve others. What have you learned from giving service?