This post is going to sound pretty whiny at first, but I promise, if you stick with it to the end, it will get a lot better. We just have to wade through the muck to get to the good part.
Our church has a robust charity and welfare outreach program. On the grand scale, the church and congregations do some amazing things for millions of people all over the world. On the small scale, we provide a lot of one-to-one service. We clean people's homes, we help them with rides, find jobs, and all kinds of other little things that make a big difference.
One of the most common "little" things we do is to bring meals to people who are struggling. Maybe they just had a new baby, or mom got put on bedrest, or they lost a family member, or anything, really. We bring hot meals into homes where people are struggling emotionally and spiritually and provide a brief respite from their problems.
This type of service is so common, that I actually think we overdo it. I know people have brought me meals when I definitely didn't need them, but they want to feel helpful, so I accept the "help" and just go about my day.
But for some reason, every time I am asked to do this for someone else, I end up feeling like garbage afterward. Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting people to be extra gracious. If your sister just died or you just miscarried, you're not always going to be cognizant of the people around you, and I get that. It's fine, and I don't expect anything different.
But I do feel like I at least deserve to not be treated with overt, deliberate rudeness when I've done something nice for someone.
I recently brought dinner to a family. The mother's sister died (the aunt of the children in the home). I was asked by our compassionate service coordinator to bring food for fourteen people (six people live in the house). I made lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and brought some cookies from the bakery. It wasn't fancy, but to feed fourteen people it was still time consuming and expensive.
I want to reiterate here: I did this because it's the right thing to do. I was asked to help, so I help. I don't expect explicit gratitude.
I also don't expect to be yelled at. For the house to be obviously in the middle of a football-game-viewing-party. I don't expect to be belittled for being "late" (I dropped off dinner at 5:45), or for asking for my carrying tray back. The adults in the house (they sent a teen out to get the food from my car) complained loudly about what I brought and how much I brought.
And I felt like garbage.
All the way home, I cried. My kids were cranky and hungry - we hadn't eaten yet; our dinner was waiting for us to reheat when we got home. And I thought about all the other times this has happened to me, and I always end up feeling the same way.
I took time out of my busy day. I postponed my children's dinner. I tried to do something nice, and there are plenty of days I don't feel like making dinner, but I do it anyway because that's my job.
And then it hit me.
I'm not going to participate in these "let's bring meals to the people who are making lots of demands" anymore.
Instead, I will pick one family to bring dinner to each month. A family like mine, where mom is often stressed out and busy and could really use a pizza night but pizza is too expensive and they just can't imagine packing the kids in the car to go get dinner, so instead they serve cereal because they're exhausted. A family where dad got a new job and is working longer hours and everybody is just tired and cranky. A family without a big, obvious tragedy, but who would really love a night off.
Because that family won't feel entitled to the help; and they won't crap all over me for doing it.
That might sound selfish. But I want to serve. I want to help others, to give of my time and talents and substance. But I really don't want to feel like a loser for doing it.