Serving Others: Do You Cook for Your Neighbors?

We're not talking about taking a meal to a new mom or a sick friend—both wonderful in their own right. We're going a little deeper. Do you notice the elderly man who lives alone in your building? Or the person at work who's been caring for her sick mom? It's the time of year when we all think about helping—feeding—those less fortunate, but we're usually serving strangers. We might need to serve those closer to home, too.

Last week, a friend of mine was talking about a person in her apartment building that she knew would appreciate a home-cooked meal. My friend, a working mother with three kids, had made a big meal that would feed her family of five for two days (saving her a night of cooking and cleaning). But she knew in her gut she should give half of that meal to her neighbor. So she did. And, she said, it led to a lovely conversation and quality time with that neighbor that boosted them both.

This kind of situation may be more common for those of us who live in apartment buildings where we hear our neighbors through the walls and squish up against them every day on the elevator. (We also don't have to put a coat on to deliver food.) But all of us have people in our lives who need to be served, to be given an unexpected gift of nourishment and fellowship. People who aren't necessarily our best friends but live in our orbit, so to speak. The neighbor we rely on to hold the front door when we're struggling with a baby stroller or the newlyweds across the hall who seem to eat pizza every night.

Can you make an extra large casserole and divide it in half? Maybe a pot of dumplings on a night you're not too busy?

If you're worried about someone's food preferences, make a quick bread or muffins. And if you think the person needs to talk even more than she needs to eat, invite her over. Hint: The neighbor who's always commenting on your cooking ("What was that delicious smell coming from your house yesterday?") would probably love to taste it.

Pictured above: Lighter Stuffed Pasta Shells

Related: Meals for New Moms: Make Lunch!

(Image: Emma Christensen)