Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bringing Dinner

I've had multiple requests to write more about life cohousing, and I am going to try my darndest to do it. My problem is that cohousing has become such a way of life now that sometimes I forget that some of what we practice isn't the norm.

I often say that the greatest thing that cohousing has taught (or rather re-taught) me is to be more cognisant of the needs of my neighbors. The residents in cohousing are always ready and willing to pitch-in for a family in need.
One member of our community recently had surgery requiring a several month recovery period. Prior to surgery, other cohousing residents signed up to bring this family dinner. I am not talking about 1 or 2 meals. The community has fed this family for TWO WEEKS. Every night. And it wouldn't surprise me if the cooking extends longer. Last night was the night that we signed up to fix their meal. It really was no extra work for me since I was making dinner for us anyway. I just added a second chicken to the oven, threw in extra carrots, and doubled the drop biscuit recipe. I did make rice krispie bars which I would normally do although I bet my family wishes I did! So not much extra work for me, but what a difference for this family.

This isn't a infrequent occurence in cohousing. When babies are born, when someone is sick, when a spouse is out of town. It isn't always formally organized and often the rest of the community doesn't even know it is occurring. Our first night in cohousing, my not-yet-but-soon-to-be friend Nona brought us a homemade meal (and Nona is a GREAT cook!).
Even though bringing meals for those in need was not an unfamiliar concept for me, it wasn't one that I practiced regularly before moving into cohousing. Now I try to practice it regulary, and my practice has extended into my greater community of friends. I am much more aware of the needs of others and much likely to lend a hand for anything... babysitting, a meal, a loaf of zucchini bread, etc.
You don't have to live in cohousing to build this kind of community. Stay aware. Is there anyone in your life right now that could use a meal?


PopMom said...

Great point! My girlfriend just had her 3rd baby. While I've asked her if she needs anything and have offered to babysit the other kids, you are never prepared to give someone a list of what you need and it feels weird asking for help sometimes.

When my 2nd child was born, an aunt sent us an Edible Arrangements fruit delivery filled with pre-cut pineapple and strawberries. It was fantastic to be able to grab something healthy and quick while I was learning to juggle 2 kids and to be able to give it to my daughter quickly. That's an expensive alternative to just bringing food but the convenience of it is the same. Thanks for reminding me - I think I'll just do it!

The Cole Mine said...

Kristen - I must say, I have always admired your willingness to help others at the drop of a hat. You always jump in to help out all the play group moms and it is much appreciated. Everyone could learn this lesson from watching you.

I often think of our neighbor while I am making dinner...She lives alone and I took soup to her once, but have lived next door for over a year. Thanks for inspiring me to include her more often. :)

Everyday Yogini said...

Ah, the food and caring. Among the things I miss most... thanks for the compliment on my cooking. Coming from you, that is high praise, indeed!

In any case, when I had Clara and Erick was gone, the community completely took care of me- fed me, held Clara while I showered, one of our neighbors even cut Clara's fingernails for me because I was so afraid to cut her!!

Dawn said...

I loved this post- it made me want to live where you live but you're right, you don't have to live in cohousing to build this kind of community. Thanks for the reminder.

Penny said...

That is cool. We did that for a girl at work whose husband was going through chemo. I do make stuff for new mums as well. It's so nice to just drop by and deliver something you know will be valued and used.

Stacy said...

After my first child was born and we innocently told everyone who asked that we didn't need any help (what were we thinking?!), I have consistently not only made meals but organized meal trees for every mom I know with a new child (first or second or third, doesn't matter!).

Making a meal tree is really no work at all -- simply ask the mom for a list of folks who want to help (and convince her that they want to help!), get a list of what foods they avoid, and then email everyone with a sign-up. You can do this for meals, childcare, errands, cleaning, or all of them.

Everyone I've done this for is SO grateful. It takes the burden of asking and organizing off the new family and makes sure they get the help they need.

I love that you have this happening organically and that the physical proximity of everyone in cohousing takes away some of the logistical challenge. I have always wanted everyone I know to live within a mile of me! That would be so great.

Mama said...

Great advice! I am trying to pick out one person in my "community" each month at least to cook dinner for. Last month I brought it to a mom who hates to cook! She just happened to be sick that day, and it was such a blessing for her to have an unexpected night off. It's so much fun for me, it's not like work at all!