Nearly every Saturday will find me in the kitchen concocting a big pot of soup. On Sunday morning, I take it with me to Quaker meeting to share with Friends. I started making soup for my Quaker community when we noticed that our small meeting has a lot of members who are seniors, caregivers for loved ones, and who also find it difficult to ask for help. As we were talking about how we might support one another, someone said that we should do, "what we love, when we can."
I love to make soup. That came as a surprise to Friends who knew me primarily as a computer geek, website designer and musician. Making soup has helped me feel more like an integrated member of the community and more of a 3-dimensional character in the life of the meeting. It has also given Friends something to talk to me about in addition to asking computer questions.
The way it works is that Friends voluntarily 'sponsor' the ministry of soup. $20 pays for 2 weeks worth of soup. This is pretty informal. Friends just hand me a $20 and I use it to buy groceries. Right now, I have the next 5 weeks sponsored. On Sunday morning, everyone who would find it helpful to have soup in the coming week is welcome to take some home. It's not only the elders and the caregivers who take home soup. People who have a busy schedule coming up and even though who are intrigued by what I might have done with red lentils and quinoa take some too. Friends bring their own containers, and we've amassed quite a collection of yogurt containers in the meetinghouse to use for distribution to those who forget.
One of my challenges has been to account for all the dietary restrictions that our meeting has - we have Friends who are vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, wheat-free, and nightshade-free, so almost all the soups are either vegan or nearly vegan. Sometimes I even manage to make something that meets everyone's requirements. Another challenge is that I personally like my food highly seasoned and am especially fond of spicy foods that would cause pain to the average palette, so I've had to tone things down a lot.
If you ever visit Bulls Head Meeting in the Hudson Valley of New York state, be sure to bring a container. You might want to leave with some soup.
Starting in October 2011, my attentions have shifted to providing meals for Occupy Poughkeepsie. I've been inspired and made hopeful by the Occupy movement and have been discerning how I am led to be a part of it. I'm clear that I am NOT led to sleep in an encampment, but that my talents as a soup-maker, web-designer, musician, and political organizer can come into play to support this movement as I am led. I'm currently seeking how to balance my desire to spend much of my time supporting Occupy with my need to continue to operate a viable web design business and to maintain a healthy spiritual discipline.