Hands down, the community I live in is quite amazing when it comes to community support.
When one family is in need, another family is there is to support them.
Whether the family is celebrating (a new baby, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a wedding, a new home) or is in mourning (the loss of a loved one) or is struggling (the husband is in reserves for the month, the loss of a job, the lack of finding a job, sudden illness), the community is there to help in various ways.
One way is by providing meals to one another.
Seeing this as a good deed, I typically volunteer whenever possible.
And although I typically don’t make big efforts with meal preparation during the week for my own family, when it comes to opportunities like these, I do make efforts.
Recently there was a call for help, I signed up to prepare a meal.
I came up with a menu in my mind, went food shopping, and spent a couple of good hours in the kitchen preparing my meal for this family:
French onion soup,
Home-made sourdough bread,
and a salad.
You can say it was a pretty nice meal.
And as I always do, I contacted the family mid-day to ask what time would be good for me to bring the meal over.
I wrote a text, but was surprised to receive the following response:
“We’ll pass this time.”
Did I miss something here?
Am I misunderstanding the Hebrew?
So, I wrote back:
“Sorry, I don’t understand.”
The response in return was, “We really have plenty of food. Thanks anyway.”
Do you know how much time and energy I put into this meal?
Do you know that it’s not very nice of you to do this?
Do you know you have no right to turn me away?
I’m trying to do a good deed, for Heaven’s sake!
I felt myself getting worked up about it and recognized I was stuck.
So, I stopped.
Closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let out a long exhalation.
I told myself that I was stuck on disappointment.
I looked at my beliefs, but then checked their accuracy.
How would this person have any idea how much time and energy I put into preparing this meal?
Who’s to say what rights this person has? If she wants to turn me away, that’s her right.
And then I considered, maybe our community has been overly generous and this family has received too much food to know what to do with?
I also considered that had the recipient known I had gone into all this effort to make this elaborate meal, she wouldn’t have turned me away. She probably would have found something to do with all the food.
I considered writing to this person and gently expressing my sorrow that I couldn’t bring over the meal I had already prepared. In addition, I pushed myself to consider to tell her I look forward to hosting them sometime in the near future.
I considered I don’t always have to make such elaborate meals for community members and if I were to keep things simple, I wouldn’t necessarily have been so disappointed as I was.
Finally, I considered spontaneously inviting another family to dinner with all the extra food I had anyway.
I chose to invite another family for dinner (which ended up being a terrific and fun night!) and writing to the receiver that although they couldn’t enjoy the meal I had already made, I look forward to sharing a meal with them soon.
She responded apologetically and expressed regret for not realizing the meal was already made.
We both expressed gratitude towards one another and moved on.
No harm done.
I got stuck on disappointment, but it’s OK. I moved passed it quite quickly, thank God, and no rip was created in our relationship. In fact, if anything, the back and forth text messages only strengthened our relationship.
And then I woke up the next morning and sat down to work.
And looked at my calendar.
And noticed that I was set to prepare a meal for this family exactly a week later than I had originally thought.
So, of course, I texted to my friend, “You’ll never believe what happened….”
And she wrote back, “What a relief! I was feeling so badly the whole night…..”
And the communication ended with happy face emoticons going out to each recipient.
And we all lived happily ever after.
Life should be so easy.