On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published by the Rains County Leader on July 27, 2021:

When was the last time you carried your lunch somewhere in a brown paper bag? I took my lunch to school most of the time, and it was usually in that simple sack. My mother was one of the few women I knew who worked outside the home, and since she had to leave earlier than Daddy, he usually packed my lunch. We didn’t eat much peanut butter at my house, but we had a lot of bologna and pickle loaf with tuna salad sprinkled in now and then. Sometimes if we were out of those, I’d get a sandwich made from leftover pot roast, meat loaf, or even scrambled eggs and bacon.

Some who grew up with more sophisticated lunches and fancy lunch boxes might think I was deprived, but if we were poor I didn’t know it. There was only once when I remember being embarrassed about my lunch. We were out of small paper bags, and this was before the era of plastic bags, so Daddy improvised. I took my lunch to school that day in an empty Kleenex box, and I thought I would die of shame!

When preparing my son Christian for Kindergarten, a lunch box was the first thing he picked out. He was a very picky eater, and if he had to eat away from home, he wanted to be sure his mom fixed his lunch. That worked until he entered fifth grade and began attending a school where he wasn’t allowed to bring a lunch. He was terrified until he learned that, in addition to a hot lunch line, they had a sandwich line which always included PB&J. He made it through six years at that school without starving, and he even expanded his tastes a little bit.

After he entered high school, I had almost no contact with school cafeterias until I became a mentor seven years ago. I expected to meet my young lady during the early morning or later in the afternoon, thinking she’d jump at the chance to miss a class. Instead she asked if I could come during her lunch period. At first, she liked bringing her lunch tray into the small conference room where we met, but when she began making more friends, she wanted me to come into the cafeteria with her. I think she felt special that she had a mentor, and she wanted to show me off.

I noticed that very few students brought their lunch, but those who did had a metal super hero lunch box with ice packs to keep their food cool or a fancy insulated bag. No tuna salad sandwich wrapped in waxed paper and carried in a paper sack for these kids!

When my mentee and I moved up to high school a couple of years ago, I was shocked by the cafeteria. It looked more like a food court at the mall than the lunch rooms of my youth. There was a plate lunch line and a fast food line as well as a coffee bar and an entire wall of snack and soda machines. There were no snack machines at my school, and the only soda machine was by the snack bar in the gym which was only open during basketball games.  And apparently bringing a lunch from home is a thing of the past. If a student doesn’t want to eat cafeteria food, the solution seems to be to ask mom to bring a burger or sub sandwich from a nearby fast food restaurant.

Brown bag lunches still exist, though. Our church recently instituted Brown Bag Lunch Fellowships as a casual way of encouraging closer relationships among the church family. On the last Sunday of each month, we bring a lunch from home or grab something from a local restaurant after the service. Then we eat together and visit in the Fellowship Hall after Morning Worship.

This past Sunday was Brown Bag day. There was more coming and going than usual because Family Vacation Bible School was starting the next day. Chairs were moved out and tables were moved in to convert the Sanctuary into a craft area. The noise level might have been a little higher than normal. With parents occupied with VBS preparation, children enjoyed running laps around the Fellowship Hall, and they left more food on plates on the floor than they ate. But no one was run over by a speeding five year old and no one stepped on a half-eaten cookie, so it was okay.

I have to admit that I didn’t see any actual brown bags. There was a wide variety of coolers – hard and soft sided and sizes ranging from two-sandwich capacity to the full meal deal. A couple of families brought slow cookers. I guess it’s easier to throw together a pot of spaghetti than to make sandwiches for four kids and two parents. There were also sacks of all kinds. My choice of carrier was a medium-sized black gift bag – perfect size for three ham and cheese wraps in plastic sandwich containers, two sodas, chips, cookies, and small boxes of raisins. It was more than sufficient for David and me as well as the friend we pick up for church. Regardless of the containers, sharing lunch with others is a great way to also share life. And if you don’t like what’s in your lunch, maybe the person across the table will trade with you.



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Comments on: "Brown Bag Lunches | by Linda Brendle" (2)

  1. This brings to mind the box lunches that were used to raise money in the olden days. Maybe everyone should put their bag in a pile and see what you end up with.

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