Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Gathering

One of the things that I help my friend R* with is gathering his food for the week. I write gathering instead of grocery shopping or running to the store purposely. Grocery shopping is too mundane. It's too rote. It's what you and I do, mostly without thinking, on a weekly basis. Gathering is a much more intentional word and a much better descriptor of what it's like for R and I to go to Kroger.

We start with a list which typically looks a little like this:
TV dinners
lunch meat
hot dogs
orange juice
bird food
canned fruit
sandwich buns

He's on a fixed income. He does all his own meal preparation as long as it can be cooked in the microwave. He's not a picky eater and enjoys food.

The thing is, once we get him home from the grocery he's stuck with what we bought. He can't change his mind or say to himself, "I don't really feel like eating that tonight." He can't run to McDonald's and just grab a quick meal. He can't really give in to the whim of choices beyond what's presented in his freezer from day to day.

And I'm shocked at how quickly he goes through food.

If I haven't been there for a couple of days and open the freezer I'm caught off guard that his stack of TV dinners is so small. I think to myself, "We JUST went to the store!" and then I do some mental math and realize he has only eaten one TV dinner a day and maybe I need to run to the store and restock him just a little – just in case it snows and I can't get back for a day or two. He will look at the counter and tell me that all his bananas are gone and I will hide a sigh, knowing that I'm about to run to the store for some more.

Before I started working with R someone else did his grocery shopping for him. They showed up at his house with bags in tow and he ate what they brought. Now, I make a concerted effort to take him along at least once a week. It's a huge effort to get him and his walker in the car and to the store, get him into a wheelchair with a basket once we get there and then reverse the whole process to get home. But it is so worth it.

He gets a say in what he eats. Where he used to eat fruit cocktail from a can, now he requests fresh pears. When we walk past the fresh vegetables he asks for a bag of salad and I smile as we put it in his basket.

Occasionally I get to sit with him as he eats his dinner. He eats slowly. He enjoys what he eats. And it makes my heart sing when he says things like, "Would you help me cut up that pear? I really like pears!"

R is teaching me what it looks like to pay attention to what it is that goes into my mouth. He's teaching me what it is to select food mindfully, with attention to the joy that comes with fresh food. And it's translating into small steps towards a healthier diet for me.

When I go to the store to do our shopping now I think about my trips with R. I'm don't go there in a hurry, running down aisle after aisle, distractedly throwing whatever into my cart. I mindfully look at my choices and select only the things I really love. I choose more fresh. More whole. More raw. Less processed.

I gather instead of run. And it feels pretty darn good.

* My friend with developmental disabilities. I help him be more independent by going to his home a few days a week. More about him here.

** In the interest of full disclosure, this whole thing is also being driven by our church's Biggest Loser campaign. We're spending six weeks talking about physical, spiritual, emotional and financial fitness. We're also trying to lose weight knowing that the billions of dollars being spent on diabetes care in this country could do so much more good in the world if we were just a bit fitter people. I weighed in last Sunday and I wasn't happy with the results. {this also explains yesterday's 6:36 picture. . .}

1 comment:

Frank Wilson said...

Thank you for what you are doing for R.