Since we are now just days away from our first ever #5475 meal at Kathy's House, I wanted to give some thoughts on sharing meals/snacks with friends or even strangers as all of the guests are to me currently staying at Kathy's House. There is something so powerful and "relieving" about sitting down and eating with another person.
Obviously, the people we do this most often with is our families at dinner. Refer back to THIS POST about my family dinners (and the inspiration behind #5475). But there are several other instances I can think of when sharing food has brought a sense of comfort, relief and community.
As a freshman in college, I was homesick. I am a homebody and naturally quiet. So, throw me into an unfamiliar place and sharing a room/bathroom with people I didn't know and I was a bit shell shocked. I went home two weeks after starting to see my family and that helped. I got caught up on the beginning of the semester work and just relaxed and had some wonderful family dinners on our screened in porch. Another thing I did was bake. Baking brings me relief, especially doing it in my childhood home/kitchen. I ended up bringing back some of the goodies to my dorm and walked up to the door at the end of the hall (I had met the girls the week before) and knocked that Sunday night. I offered the treats to the girls who shared the suite and they invited me in to watch Grey's Anatomy. The rest is history. Two of the girls in that suite stood up in my wedding and we are still good friends to this day. My homesickness drastically improved and I got into the groove of college. All because of some shared baked goods!
Later in my college career, I took some summer classes at another University to earn some extra credits and take some classes not offered at my College. Summer classes are just that. Classes. In the Summer. When there are a ton of other more fun things to be doing. The professor of one of the classes knew this and tried to make it more bearable by having a "snack share" much like the 4-year-olds at my Daycare participate- HA! So, college kids would bring in chips or Oreos and we'd collect everything for the day on a table in the front of the room and we just got up and snacked whenever we wanted to during the several hours long class. It was awesome! Everyone enjoyed class a bit more. "Food brings people together" was the quote the professor used the first day and it is so true.
Lastly, I remember my first year teaching as a 22 year old fresh from college. The staff had a "sunshine" club, Friday Treat Day and monthly luncheons. I felt so "grownup" being a part of a real adult staff who participated in these fun days. I had watched my Mom make elaborate desserts for her Bank's "Friday Treat" for years and now I got to do it. However, I had a tiny 1 bedroom apartment and in the kitchen I could put my arms out and touch both walls. I had no dishwasher. So cooking and baking was always an endeavor. For one of the luncheons at school we were doing an Italian theme and this was right when Pinterest first became a hit. I wanted to make a Pizza Casserole (I'm telling you, pepperonis are my weakness!) from a recipe I had found but it required a crock pot which I did not own. As Kyle always says: Be, Do, Have. So, I went over to my neighbors and asked if I could borrow there's. They were happy to help the cause. So I cooked it up and brought it to school and everyone loved it. I hauled it back to my apartment, hand washed it and returned it. All for a luncheon with my teaching staff. That group of teachers my first year made me feel so included and part of a family when I needed it most: Not knowing 100% what I was doing as a first year teacher, living on my own away from home for the first time and learning my Dad's diagnosis. It was those teachers from my first year that drove over 3 hours during their spring break to come and support my family and I at my Dad's funeral the following year.
It is amazing the sense of community that is built when sharing food is a priority. That is why I think Ronald McDonald House and Kathy's House are such cool places for caregivers and there families. They get to meet people going through similar things and can sit together and share a meal. They don't have to do it alone.