Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mobile Hospitality: Who Needs It?

We're called in Scripture to practice hospitality, to serve others, to love our neighbors as ourselves. One of the best ways to do this in our modern society is to bring that hospitality to others: to give hospitality wheels and make it mobile.

I've written before about hospitality on full tummies (keeping your freezer stocked and practicing hospitality on a budget), but I thought I'd write a bit more on this idea of mobile hospitality, partly because I've been given numerous opportunities recently in which to practice it!

What is mobile hospitality? I'm using the term to refer to meals and food we bring to someone in need. Everyone has to eat. Frequently, that's one of the easiest needs for someone outside the family to provide when the family (or person) in question is struggling in some way. In addition, it's one of the socially acceptable needs for us to help meet for someone else; if you offered someone money, he or she would most likely turn it down, especially if you're not related or a close friend. But if you call someone up and offer a meal, he or she often accepts. Both money and food might be lacking, but people will feel more comfortable accepting food than cold, hard cash. In our modern society, most people do not live in the same cities as their parents and other relatives. It's more and more up to the church to step in where relatives might have stepped in years ago.

So, who needs this mobile hospitality? The classic three occasions for bringing food to someone are the following: birth of a new baby, death in the family, or moving from location to location. Those are certainly times in which people appreciate a good, home-cooked meal. But what about other possibilities? If you start thinking and looking around, you might notice myriad other opportunities for mobile hospitality. Consider the following scenarios, all of which have occurred to my friends in the past year. I've been fortunate enough to be in a place where I could serve them.
  • A mom is struggling with extreme morning sickness upon the discovery of an unexpected pregnancy. There are 5 other young children at home as well. Does she feel like cooking for, much less eating with, her family?
  • A mom is spending all day at the hospital by the bedside of a very sick child. The husband is spending all night with the same child. The remaining children have been farmed out to friends in the area. When they return from the hospital, the cupboard and fridge are bare, and the mom still needs to provide care for her child.
  • A woman's mother is dying of cancer, is in the care of hospice, and the woman wants to spend as much time as possible with her mother during these last precious days of life. She also has a family of her own. A meal brought by someone enables her to spend more time with her mother instead of cooking at home.
  • A mom is fighting cancer and goes in for chemo treatments every other week. She is weak and sick those weeks, yet still has a 5-year-old and husband 9who works full-time) at home who need to eat.
  • A woman has a knee replacement and her elderly parents live with her and her husband. She will be unable to move around without crutches for a number of weeks.
  • My mother-in-law broke her arm and faced a lengthy recover. Her elderly parents are also living with them. The only person able to cook and take care of household needs using more than 1 arm is my father-in-law who is at work all day.
Do you think these women and their families appreciated the groups of people who got together to bring them meals over the course of days or weeks? You bet. Here's a good rule of thumb to use when ascertaining if a person or family could benefit from a meal delivered to their door:

If the primary cook and/or one of the primary caregivers is legitimately needed elsewhere or incapacitated in such a way that he or she cannot provide meals like normal for the family, then a meal is welcome. This is particularly true when there are dependents in the household who cannot fend for themselves: children, the elderly, the disabled.

Chronic illness, short-term serious illness, major transition (job loss, moving, etc.), lengthy power outages, births, deaths, a caregiver off visiting a sick relative, and so forth--all provide opportunities for the rest of us to serve!

So, how do we practice this mobile hospitality? Stay tuned for some ideas (including ideas for setting the wheels in motion as well as what to bring). Can't cook? We'll cover that, too.

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