Mobilizing the Relief Society

March 20, 2004 | 13 comments
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We’ve never been on the receiving end of the Relief Society’s meal brigade until now. (We recently came home with the new baby.) It’s certainly been a great help; we’re really grateful for peoples’ efforts on our behalf, but it also means some adjustments (mental and logistical) on our part.

The funny thing is, in NYC, we hardly ever cooked, ate home-cooked food, or even ate at home before. Because of work, etc., we usually went out to eat, or else we ordered in. Interestingly, the RS here has adapted accordingly; sometimes, someone’ll call us from their office to let us know to expect Thai food.

A couple of times, the elaborate meals that arrive have far exceeded the expectations and habits of people accustomed to grazing or grabbing a slice of pizza on the way home. And in the mean time, our doormen keep wondering how such a feeding network is even possible in the city.

How does this tradition vary in different places? Does anyone have good or bad learning experiences, either from the receiving end or the meal-preparing end?

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13 Responses to Mobilizing the Relief Society

  1. Heather Oman on March 21, 2004 at 1:24 am

    Hm, you’ve opened a can of worms for me. I’ve got issues.

    I applaud the person who ordered you Thai food. That means that whoever it was either a: a very secure person who doesn’t care what you think about her domestic skills and feels anything is ok as long as you’re not starving
    or
    b: a man.

    I have learned through both making meals for other women as well as serving as a compassionate service leader, aka food gal, that providing meals calls up all kinds of Mormom-Women-stress-syndrome demons. If you are making a meal for a whole other family, there is a lot of pressure to make sure that family eats at least as well as a pre-conceived standard of a healthy family meal.
    I mean, you don’t want somebody to be saying to his beleagered wife, “yeah, dinner came, but it looks pretty nasty. Sister Shnaz brought it, and well, we all know SHE can’t cook!” We want to be the one who is discussed in these terms: “When you have a baby, you want to make sure Sister Jordin brings you a meal. Hers are the best!” (I am not making this stuff up. I actually had that conversation at a baby shower just this week.) And even though everybody is really eating slices of pizza and left over Chinese food most of the time, you don’t want to actually ADMIT that to everybody else! Somehow that would be admitting that you have no domestic skills, and even in hip and forward thinking places like NYC, I would be willing to bet there are some women who have some serious Mormom-women-stress issues. They were there in full force in Boston. So you combat those demons by showing up at people’s homes with gorgeous meals, feeling like you are following in Emma or Eliza R’s footsteps, even though most of the time you are really following in Wendy’s or Ronald McDonalds footsteps. I must admit that one time when I brought a gorgeous meal of pot roast, fruit salad and dessert to our bishop’s family when his daughter had surgery, Nate and I had cornpops for dinner that night. Sad, but true. But hey, the bishop’s wife was impressed, and in Mormon-women-stress syndrome terms, that’s what counts.

    As I progress with fighting my own MWSS demons and make more meals as a compassionate service leader in a month than I did in Boston in a year, I have learned tricks to simplify the process, as I’m sure many veteran Relief Society leaders have done. The demons are soothed, the women are fed,and hopefully everybody feels loved, which I think is the entire point of the exercise anyway. I do truly believe that service is an act of love, and preparing meals for those who are in need definitely falls in that category. Unfortunately we, especially we women, get caught up in the need to make sure we do the love the way it SHOULD be done and lose sight of the real stuff. Again, sad but true.

  2. Mardell on March 21, 2004 at 10:58 am

    When we had our first child we got some great dinners, but it took me months to figure out what dishes belonged to who. I finally just took them to Releif Society.

    When we moved to New York and had our second child. Right on the sign up list, they past aroung in church, it said only deliver meals in disposable serving ware. It was the greatest thing nothing to return to any one.

  3. cooper on March 21, 2004 at 12:25 pm

    Heather said most of it. Just one question: Are there any other Mormon Women Superheros out there that never ask anything of the RS? I don’t want to ask and no one ever offers? How do you overcome that? And how do you reconcile the give, give, give service aspect of the church all the while feeling guilty if you need it? Is it attitude?

  4. Nicole Soh on March 21, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    Hi I’m new here, but this is a hot button issue with me too. When I was expecting my youngest child I had lots of complications during my pregnancy and at one point had to be hospitalized for three weeks. My RS president insisted on bringing meals to my family even though my husband is at least as good a cook as I am and my other children were old enough to fend for themselves. So for those three weeks, my family was brought dinner 3-4 nights a week.

    Meanwhile, I was in the hospital, eating nasty hospital food. None of those meals made their way to me (though I suppose that was partly my husband’s fault). I was lonesome and bored and would have much preferred one of those sisters to spend an hour visiting me in the hospital than spending it cooking.

    The icing on the cake though was that when my daughter was born prematurely two months later and my husband and I were trekking back and forth to the hospital every day to visit her, nobody offered to bring us meals. That is the time when we really could have used the service from our ward.

    So – though it sounds like I’m just whining, I do have a point. What I learned from this personally is that when I take meals in to a family after they’ve had a new baby I always make sure the mom is home from the hospital to enjoy one of the no-cooking nights. I’ve also learned that when people say “thanks, we’d rather not have meals brought in,” they probably mean it, and that when someone is in the hospital for an extended period of time, they’d most likely prefer a visit from you than that you take dinner to their healthy family at home.

  5. Renee on March 22, 2004 at 11:01 pm

    I wouldn’t ask our RS to bring dinners because I don’t trust them to come. Those sheets Sundays are long forgotten about on Wednesday night. Plus, who knows what kind of stuff they’ll bring if they do remember? Sometimes Top Ramen is just easier than dealing with that affair. :)

    After we moved into our new house last month, my VT called and asked if she could make dinner for us the following night as we were still unpacking. I happily accepted.

    On a weird note, there are the abusers. We had a hypochondriac in our ward a few years ago who insisted on all kinds of medical procedures. At one point, she asked for meals to be brought over for 3 weeks after another surgery. Dinner for her, her capable husband, and her capable father-in-law who was coming to help after the surgery. As this was the latest in a long line of requests and there was obviously 2 people who could cook in the home, our RS president gently pointed that last fact out (after getting the okay from the bishop) and bowed out of assisting.

  6. greg.org on March 23, 2004 at 2:07 am

    I’m laughing so I don’t cry, Heather. We’ve been interpreting meals all week, along the very lines you mention, but only in jest.

    When there’s a meal that actually takes “only an hour” to prepare, we imagine that person normally spending two hours getting a full sit-down dinner ready each evening. Never mind that normally, if it takes longer than 30 minutes for us to make it, we’ll just order in.

    And as we wondered aloud about competitive meal-giving, I pointed out the well-known RS competitions of centerpiece-for-the-lesson and please-read-this-quote-I-collaged-together cards. (few of these actually ever seem to happen in nyc for some reason, but they seem as Mormon as a basement full of wheat.)

    The meals turn out to be an option, giving flexibility more than meeting a direct need. If we’d absolutely depended on it, we would’ve been in trouble the night one didn’t show up (two arrived the next day, though). We feel a sense of gratitude and of interconnectedness, which is quite nice. But I’d echo Nicole’s points, too: a little checking and deducing to see what people may need most can go a long way.

  7. Matt J on March 23, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    It’s not just women who get mormon women stress syndrome. Early in our marriage, we were asked to give a meal to a family with three small children — both the mother and the baby were having medical problems, and half the family required a very special diet. Why did we sign up for this??? I ended up making some sort of chicken & pasta thing in the crock pot because we were both gone all day. When I came home it looked awful, I would have normally thrown it away. In this case I had no reservations about ordering some restaurant food, but because of the dietary restrictions I didn’t know what to do. Cheerios were probably a better option at this point. I ended up taking the food over and felt mortified and apologized. At least the salad and bread looked normal.

    Lessons: don’t try a new recipe when making meals for someone else; if the food is bad, make sure they know the husband prepared it; don’t sign up for service that too far exceeds your capabilities, someone might get hurt!

  8. Heather Oman on March 23, 2004 at 8:34 pm

    “Lessons: don’t try a new recipe when making meals for someone else; if the food is bad, make sure they know the husband prepared it; don’t sign up for service that too far exceeds your capabilities, someone might get hurt!”

    Oh, so true, so true. I have two standards when I take meals to other people, and one of them literally takes 15 minutes to prepare. I have definitely learned my lesson about new recipes! Tip: Don’t try new recipes when you have the missionaries over, either.

    About appropriate service–It can sometimes be very tough to really discern what people need and also what people can give. Meals always become the fall back because everybody needs to eat, and making a meal for another family, 2 hour prep aside, is usually a one time shot. Mormons are GREAT at mobilizing service for things like moving furniture, meals for new mothers, and bailing out flooded basements. But what about the sister whose husband is in the hospital for an extended period of time, and doesn’t have a car to go visit him? What about the sister who has had knee surgery, and has to be bed bound for 3 weeks? And what about the Nicole Sohs of the world who are spending their time trying to be a mother to a premie and still try to hold down a normal life? These type of issues need people who are willing to give extended, long term service, and frankly, we mormons are not as good as that as we would like to think.

    Also, I do think it’s hard to ask for service, and to let a RS president really know what you need. I mean, that would be admitting to some weakness, that we can’t do it all, and the Mormon woman stress syndrome demons don’t allow that. I don’t know where this attitude comes from, but it’s there. As compassionate service leader, I have NEVER had somebody call me directly and ask for service. It is invariably the RS president calling me and alerting me to a need that she has perceived, probably through divine ESP. I just think it’s hard to directly ask for service, and therefore there tends to be big gap between member’s needs and those needs being met appropriately.

  9. Kaimi on March 23, 2004 at 8:49 pm

    Heather,

    I always thought the missionaries were great guinea pigs for trying out new recipes on. I mean hey, they’ll eat anything anyway, right?

  10. Heather Oman on March 23, 2004 at 10:40 pm

    Well, they were kind enough to choke down my soggy quiche. Truly an act of service on their part.

  11. pate on March 25, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    I’ve got to toss in my bit here. My biggest complaint used to be that I was the one who cooks 90% of the dinners in our house, but the Relief Society never offered to bring in meals when I was sick. Then I had an epiphany, someone was bringing in a meal to cut the time that I needed to spend on the ‘adminstrative work’ of meal preparation instead of the ‘ministering work’ of taking care of my sick wife and kids. Once I understood that, it became a lot easier to deal with.

    We still got some pretty ‘interesting’ meals, but we also received some meals that made us awfully grateful. My personal favorite was the dinner brought over by the deacons quorum when my wife was on bedrest for 3 months of her pregnancy. They packed up rolls, sandwich fixings, and picnic /deli style side dishes. I later learned that the young men of the quorum had done the planning, shopping, and packing themselves, which made things that much neater.

    Personally,

  12. Joyce on May 16, 2004 at 7:31 pm

    I must say that I am in a wonderful ward in Colorado where we do lots of compassionate service that is “for the duration”. Many years ago I was in a horrific car accident and was off my feet from end of Feb. to end of June. We had meals brought in five nights a week for all of those months. What a wonderful example was shown to the nonmembers on my street. When I am asked to provide a meal I try to ask the person I am providing to if there is anything they don’t like or are allergic to. I also like to provide it in a disposable container or I put my address label on the container and lid.

  13. V.George Raju on January 9, 2005 at 10:22 am

    Dear Beloved Brother.

    We thankful to you for your prayers and your love. We are all thakful to you for your prayers, we are very in great sorrow for the terrible situation in Asia and our costal aria lost and victimes.

    As you know that we are in the Eastern S.India which is nigh on to Bay of Bengal ( Indian Ocean).Just we have 5Kms to Sea. By the Grace of our God Almighty we have no danger here, tens of thousands victims are in Great need, swept away their loved ones and their homes, and everything there are many people lost their everything. Our Land shaken; in sometimes vibrations are going on, we are fearing. Though we are safe at Bapuji Nager, tens of thousands homeless in our neighbor costal aria villages, , May you have been hearing the news, I cannot explain this great destruction, we are not yet recover from this great tragic wonder. More than 13,000 people were died in India, the total in our Andhra Pradesh more than 100 was died. Wrath of our God all mighty is upon Asia due to the cause of the great sin. We are praying for our Land, please

    If you would help for the victims of the Tsunami (undersea earthquake) you would be appreciated. Please gather the relief fund, used clothes and food or medicine etc from the brethren, friends and your family members etc. Emergency help is needed at present for the Tsunami relief for the Christians and if it is possible for the others in Andhra Pradesh. We are ready to make the relief work to something for the brethren and others victimes on Bapuji Nager Church of Christ. You may share your part in this great work. May our God will lead you do something.

    Please rush your help to Tidal wave victims, your help will reach the victims immediately. All among the coasts, the families are suffering from the tidal wave that has swept away their loved ones and their homes, and everything. We can not replace their loss, but we can help them with immediate requirements like food, used cloths, shelter and emergency medical care. But to provide the immediate assistance we need you right now.

    Bapuji Nagar Church of Christ are ready to distributing food, providing urgent relief and ensuring that your kind help do reach the victims for whom they are intended. Please rush your kind help immediately to save the victims. Victims are looking for the help from saved people in the World. May our God bless you.

    Sincerely, Your Brother

    V.George Raju

    Church of christ
    Bapujinagar, H.No.56-1-132
    Kakinada 533 002
    E.G.Dt., A.P., S.India

    urgent help is needed for the Tsun…