Saturday, August 20, 2011

More than a Meal

Recently I took a trip to my former college to see some friends and spend my break. One night as I sat in the dining hall I began to reflect on my food-related experiences in college. It would have been easy for me to make a case to be exempt from meal plan. I mean, for me, eating is a very dangerous activity. The college also could have easily requested that I not be on meal plan.  Trying to safely feed me is a challenge that few people undertake (The short list of my allergies includes gluten, corn, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, tomatoes, banana, pineapple, kiwi, and shellfish. At least 6 of those present with skin blistering on contact, anaphylaxis upon ingestion).  Central College however decided to take on the challenge of trying to feed me and I decided to let them.  In all honesty, I really didn't want to try and cook three meals a day for myself on top of being a student.  Central went above and beyond to make sure that I had food at every meal.  In all four years that I was at Central, the only times I got sick from food were times that I had made less than wise choices (eating food without checking the ingredients, eating food from the fryers).  Which is super impressive.  I mean, really super impressive.  Very few people/kitchens can pull that off.
As I sat and reflected upon my experiences with food, I came to realize that the staff (dietary manager, cooks, servers, etc) did far more than just provide me with food options that wouldn't kill me.  Food is a central part of social life on a college campus and the dining hall is the center of food.  On a campus with only 3 options for meal plan (the main dining hall, a fast food type place called GSC, and the Cafe), it was pretty safe to assume that most students would eat at least one meal a day in the main dining hall.  The main dining hall was also a hub of activity, especially when things got busy (so, basically, all the time).  If you wanted to catch up with a friend, it was easy to say "Let's have a lunch date".  Need a meeting time for a small group Bible study or GIG?  Everyone has to eat, why not hold it at the dining hall?  Want to practice language skills? Sit at the German or Spanish table.  Thinking about studying abroad?  Go to a Lunch and Learn.
By allowing me to be on meal plan, and making meal plan easy for me, all of these social opportunities were opened to me.  I ate almost every day with a group called "the Table".  We (almost) always sat in the same spot in the dining hall, and there was always more room at the table.  It was a time where important news was shared, where schedules were coordinated, where we could check in with each other and make sure we were doing alright.  If I hadn't been on meal plan, I would have missed out on all of that.
I would have missed out on Study Day picnic, an event which grew out of my propensity for sitting on the floor randomly to eat (people would ask me where I wanted to sit, I'd say "right here" and sit down wherever I was.  Eventually it became an organized event with a picnic blanket and everything).
Some people see meals as nothing more than a chance to eat, but they are so much more than that.  So much of our culture revolves around food.  When the dining staff decided to make an effort to provide me with safe food options, they were concerned about feeding my body.  What they ended up doing was feeding my life.
Sometimes life is like that.  People intend to meet one need and end up meeting another, often far greater need.  Or they fail to meet a need and end up failing to meet another, far greater need.
You may never know what what deeper need you'll meet by making the effort to meet a need on the surface, what wounds you'll heal by reaching out to someone.  Likewise, you may never know how much you'll deepen wounds by failing to meet surface needs.
Remember, what you do on the surface often runs much much deeper.

No comments: