We’ve just pulled into the driveway after a family dinner. My husband is unloading the car, and I’m ready to send our sons to start getting ready for bed when the phone rings. It’s my mother.
“You left your cake pan here,” she says.
Of course I did. I always do.
Almost every time I see my parents, I have a dish to return to them – or they have one to give back to me. If there’s not a casserole dish or a pie plate to pass along, there’s a kitchen towel or a set of tongs that one of us left behind.
It seems to be the natural order of things when we bring food to share at family gatherings. We might remember to carry the cupcakes or the caprese to the party, but we can’t also keep track of the serving dishes to take them home.
The radiator by my parents’ door is a waystation for items that need to find a way home. Whenever I stop by my younger sister’s house to drop off a treat or bag of handed-down clothes, she’ll say, “Wait a minute. Let me see what we have for you.” Then she’ll pull out a bowl or tray that I had forgotten I owned and – if I’m lucky – a book she just finished that she thought I would enjoy.
I love that cycle of sharing, as if some of our items have no real or permanent owner. It serves as an ongoing reminder that we are a family. We exchange clothing for the children, trays that may be full or empty of food, DVDs and books. We have our own full and separate lives, but we are also a community that relies on and supports one another.
After all, are you really related to someone if you stop by for a visit and she doesn’t hand you a pie plate you had forgotten or a snow suit she just found in the basement that might fit your child?
I see the same pattern happening among our friends. Better yet is when we see those small, tangible exchanges popping up in our communities – in parishes, schools, neighborhoods and beyond. We run next door to borrow an item we need, we deliver a meal to a family that has a newborn baby or an illness, or we text the math homework to a classmate’s mother when her child forgets to bring his folder home.
Last fall, our son accidentally left his trumpet on the bus on the way home from school. One of his classmates spotted it, brought it home and delivered it to our house. We were so grateful. Small acts of kindness show how connected we are – and can be – in a world that sometimes feels so focused on individual happiness.
One of my favorite aspects of social media is how it opens the door to opportunities to lend items and give them freely with no expectation of return through Freecycle and neighborhood Facebook pages. What I love the most is how we can be connected through prayer as we form and strengthen friendships and discover small but important ways we can support one another.
Life can be difficult. We all hit bumps in the road. But the truth is that we are in this together.
“God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle,” St. Maximilian Kolbe said. “In the company of friends, we will find the strength to attain our sublime ideal.”
In this whirlpool of struggle, what a gift God gives us in the individuals he places alongside us in our families, in our parishes and in our communities. He presents beautiful opportunities to us as he opens our eyes to ways we can support one another in the difficult moments as we walk life’s journey
As we continue our Lenten journeys, may we find ways to give to others in acts of love – and accept them in return. If all goes well, maybe we’ll even lose track of a pie plate or a casserole dish along the way.