The Traveling Picnic Basket

My parents taught me many fun ways to entertain—not just through their teaching on the subject, but by their example. My husband and I recently began to put one of these ideas into our entertaining “do-often” plans. It was such fun, that I had to share it here on the blog.

During the years that I lived with my parents to assist with my father’s care, I realized firsthand just how lonely it can be when you can’t get out of the house. I’m not just talking about being “stuck at home” for a few days. I’m talking about having trouble knowing what day it is, because every day is the same as the one that just ended. I’m referring to the feeling of knowing that the memories from the pictures on the walls will be your only “outside contact” that day. I’m recalling days on end, seeing my father know that even if he had the gumption to go somewhere, he would not physically be able to do so.

Those experiences made me more aware not only of my parents’ needs but of those currently around me who are what churches and others often call “shut-ins.” Well, I have determined that even though they are shut in their houses, that won’t shut me out of them! That’s where this fun “entertaining” idea comes in! [Thank you, Mom, for teaching by your joyful example!]

Recently, a friend of ours fell from the ladder leading into her attic, and she sustained a back injury. (Miraculously, she was not killed, as the doctors told her should have happened.) Through our church, Joe and I signed up to take our friend and her husband a meal, since cooking was tricky—at best!—for her. As we began to think about what to take, we also realized that setting the table, heating up the food, and washing the dishes were going to be no easier than if she had to prepare the meal from scratch.

Enter: the traveling picnic basket!

The day before the “event,” we called the meal recipients with three instructions/questions:

  1. Would it be okay if, when we dropped off the meal, we stayed and ate with them?
  2. They were NOT to set the table.
  3. They were NOT to do any extra cleaning or preparation. Everything was coming with us, and we would be in casual clothes.

The day of the event, we packed the following into our traveling picnic basket (and in a small, square laundry basket):

  1. Five of our glass dinner plates, bowls, glasses, cloth napkins, place mats, forks, knives, and spoons, as well as five dessert plates and dessert forks. (We had also asked permission the day before to bring along a guest—a mutual friend whose wife was recovering in the hospital following a stroke; therefore, there would be five of us.)
  2. We also packed a centerpiece (a small plant that would first sit on the center of the table and would remain behind after we left), the necessary serving dishes and utensils, crackers, soup, dinner rolls, butter, jelly, and a pumpkin pie!

When we arrived, Joe went into the living area to talk with the couple and our mutual friend. Meanwhile, I quickly set the table and put the food into the serving dishes. Joe helped fill water glasses (yes, we simply had water to drink) just before time to eat.

After a sweet time of fellowship around the table, I asked them to head into the living area for some after-dinner chat, and Joe helped me to quickly gather the dirty dishes, place mats, napkins, etc. and pack them back into the towel-lined picnic basket and laundry basket. In literally ten minutes, we were headed home, dirty dishes safely packed away in the trunk.

Before we left, we had prayer with our friends, and they each remarked as they passed the kitchen, “Wow, it looks just like it did when you came!”

For the record, in less than thirty minutes after we got home, everything was clean and put away!

So grab a laundry basket, picnic basket, or old box, pack up some dishes (they can be styrofoam if you want!), cook up a simple meal (or stop by a local restaurant for take-out…okay, fine…I confess…that’s what we did in the case I just told you about!), and don’t let the fact that someone is currently a shut-in shut you out of a wonderful visit and a unique opportunity to be a blessing!

“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,

and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

Galatians 6:10, NASB


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