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I grew up with five siblings in a small Saskatchewan farming community. People worked hard, were active in the community, and looked out for their neighbours. If someone needed a hand with something, it was not long before the word went out and help from neighbours was on your doorstep. When someone was sick or unable to look after themselves or loved ones, the community responded with gifts of food. I remember many times when mom would bake a cake or casserole or make a pot of chilli for a family because someone was sick, or a family needed a little help. In that small farming community sharing food was a love language, and my mother was fluent in it.

Love and Hospitality

As time went on my siblings and I moved away for work or school and eventually settled down with families of our own, but we made a point of traveling back to Saskatchewan to see Mom and Dad and the rest of the family. Mom always had food ready to serve us when we arrived. Very often the meal was on the table when we pulled into the driveway.

I never knew my mother to have empty cupboards or fridges. The freezers – there were two big ones – were always full of baking, soup stock, pork chops and much more. Whether it was her family, an unplanned visitor, or someone who needed help, my mom was ready with food.

A Bounty of Care

We lost Mom to cancer in 2010, and in true Prairie style, the community rallied around us. As our large family arrived at Mom and Dad’s place, so too did the food. Within hours of Mom’s death, the kitchen counter was full. There were homemade cinnamon buns, cakes, and pies, pots of stew, fresh bread, casseroles, soup, you name it. Day after day, the doorbell kept ringing and the food kept arriving.

Our family of nearly thirty people were back home together for the better part of a week, and not once did we have to cook anything. When we left the freezer was even fuller than when we had arrived.

We all needed places to stay too, and in no time the call went out and spare bedrooms in the homes all around were offered to us. None of us were saddled with hotel costs. The community quite literally opened their homes to us.

Compassion in a Casserole

Laying my mother to rest was intensely sad for our whole family, but the outpouring of generosity from the community shone through our grief. No doubt, many of the kind gestures we received were a testimony to Mom and the generosity she had shown people over a lifetime spent in the community, but so much of it was simply an expression of genuine love and compassion from good people who were willing to step up to help others. I will always remember their incredible gift of love and hospitality

Food for Thought

As Mom taught us, small gestures like a casserole or an open door can have a lasting impact on the people around us, and whether we live in a small farming community or a big city high-rise, we can all take the time to step up and step out for the ‘neighbours’ we know are hurting.

This might mean dropping off a meal to the family who lives next door, sending a kind message to a colleague at work, connecting with a friend or acquaintance with a Zoom call during these often-lonely pandemic times, or just buying a hot coffee for the homeless person you pass outside your apartment.

How will you connect with your neighbours today?

Contributed by Darren Pries-Klassen

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