Last week I wrote about giving gifts of food to celebrate birthdays. I love birthdays! On birthdays we have cultural permission to shout from the rooftops about the grand and glorious event that a person came into being. So many slight twists of fate could have prevented the birth, but they DIDN’T. A person was born! And we know that person. And our lives are better for it. Of course we give gifts of food to celebrate and nourish.

Sadly however, one of the reasons we hold life so precious is exactly because life is temporary. Eventually, the life that came in goes out. And although our feelings are far from celebratory, in times of illness we also give gifts of food. But these get well gifts are different. They are less likely to be sweet, and more often they are the hearty staples that supply nutrition and comfort.

We give nourishing food to our sick friends and their families because they need it. Their need is not usually due to a lack of funds, but rather to a lack of energy. The stress of concern and care for a sick loved one often over-rides the desire to eat. For a worried mind to focus on meal planning, shopping, and preparation is an overwhelming task. Food is reduced to the status of fuel. Soon a diet of cheese and crackers or hospital, vending-machine sandwiches becomes the new normal.

So friends and family step in to help. And in this wonderful age of the Internet, we’re getting organized about it! For the past year, the friend to whom I gave the birthday cherry pie has been participating in one of the websites created by Her close friend with four very young children is gravely ill, and his family uses to coordinate the help they receive from their family and friends. This on-line coordination means that meals, baby-sitting, rides to the doctor, and all the little things the family needs get taken care of. This coordination means that the suffering family is not inundated with meals on Saturday and eating only peanut butter on Thursday. Appropriate help comes at the appropriate time and in the appropriate quantity. 

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