Friday, October 18, 2013


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.


  1. This post really resonated with me. I'm so glad you shared.

    It's so non-PC to say (I'll say it anyway.)--but I think we, especially today when there is such a strong tendency to compare the people on the bottom to the people in "comfortable" situations, have a strong tendency to forget that no matter how much or how little hardship you appear to have in your life, everyone is struggling. Everyone needs help sometimes. Everyone gets in situations where they desperately need a break. Everyone needs a moment of grace, in their own way. I have a friend who often does our dishes--she genuinely enjoys doing them (she has finally convinced me of that--apparently it de-stresses her), but I'm pretty sure she sometimes does more dishes than she has to because she knows her suitemates are exhausted. And let me tell you, even that little, tiny favor is an act of love that makes my life better.

    Aside from the fact that you do *not* deserve to be treated the way you've been treated, it sounds like the people you've previously been bringing meals to have not actually benefitted from that particular service. But if you can do that for people who will be truly relieved to have your help, that is not selfish. That is beautiful. That sounds to me like you're being pointed in a direction that you're supposed to go. And honestly, who knows--your acts of kindness could keep a just-plain-stressful situation from turning into a really bad one.

  2. PS--(Since my comment wasn't long enough.) I'd love to know how this new approach works out for you. :)

  3. I don't mean to be dismissive, but I probably won't blog about it. I felt more than a little uncomfortable blogging about this (like I was asking for praise or something, which I totally was not), but I felt like the decision I made to help people who don't "need" it was one that other people might like to consider as well. And maybe I'm wrong, because other people might already be doing this, and I'm the only one who needed this message. But whether or not it goes "well" - and I expect it to be awkward the first few times I show up with a favor nobody asked for - I feel good about the decision to help in this way.

  4. This is really what I'm hoping for. That little things can make a big difference in someone's home, especially when they aren't expecting it. :)

  5. I love that idea! And I'm sure the families you serve will be just as appreciative. And not lame like the others. Who doesn't like lasagna?!

  6. I think that's an awesome idea. I think it's great to rally round and help people in tough situations, but honestly, isn't regular life really tough sometimes? I hope it all goes great and I think you're going to make some stressed-out people very happy :)

  7. Our youth got some experience with this when we served the homeless in Seattle. Not everyone was grateful or kind. It sparked some great conversation.

    That said, I would have left a wreck as well. And my husband would have probably driven over when I got home and told them how their attitude was unacceptable, and I would have had to talk him out of it, and ick. I don't do the meal delivery thing often. I'm not much of a cook. I rarely cook period. I can usually think of something else to do instead. Like you are doing. And that's the key. Don't let it ruin you for service. Let it make you think about how and why you serve.