Tables across Moncton will be piled high with food this weekend. Perfectly brined hams, roasted turkeys, delectable pies and cakes and brunches of epic proportions, immortalized in family photos snapped and shared. But sometimes even a plate of last night’s leftover spaghetti can look like a Dennis Prescott spread.
There is magic in a home-cooked meal. For some, it’s in the process of preparation. For others, it’s the gathering of people as the meal is shared. For me, it’s in the appreciation I have for the kindness of strangers.
Four years ago, I was eating most of my meals at the Ronald McDonald Room at the Moncton Hospital. Our twin boys were due in mid-April, but they arrived in mid-February. They had a rare in-utero disease, so we were prepared for a premature arrival and extended neonatal intensive (NNICU) care stay, but we hadn’t thought about the little things, like eating for the weeks in which we’d be at the hospital.
Thankfully, other people had thought of that. Every day, a little slip of paper would arrive beside their NNICU cots, sharing the menu for that night’s meal in the Ronald McDonald Room. I generally spent the days at the hospital, sitting in the NNICU from 9am to 4pm, while my husband would come by after work and in the evenings. I’d often text him what was for dinner in the Ronald McDonald Room, so that he’d make sure to grab a meal at the hospital. I’d usually find the leftovers in the fridge to heat up for my lunch the next day, or take advantage of the small kitchen to make a sandwich or enjoy sweets left by thoughtful volunteers.
I honestly don’t know what we would have done for meals without the kindness of strangers who keep that fridge filled with home-cooked goodness – or those few quiet moments to talk without the beeping of hospital machines filtering through. We are just one of more than 1,200 New Brunswick families each year whose lives are improved by the meals and other services offered by the Ronald McDonald Rooms at the Moncton Hospital, the IWK, and the Ronald McDonald House in Halifax.
I was thrilled to read that there will be a fundraising and awareness event for the charity in Moncton this June. The first annual Rise & Shine PJ Walk for Kids will allow families like mine to publically show our thanks to those who have helped us, while telling more people about the incredible help these rooms provide to families dealing with hospital stays for children. And if you’re looking for a way to give back to the community in a way that is easy for kids to understand and take part in, cooking a meal for the Ronald McDonald Room is tops on my list.
Whatever your family dynamic, you’re likely going to sit down to enjoy at least one home-cooked meal this weekend. When you do, be sure to take a moment to be thankful for not only what you have, but also what has been given to you. Maybe you can even start a dinner table discussion about how you as a family – be that blood relatives, your urban family, or your circle of friends – could give back, creating more memories together as you walk Centennial Park in your PJs or cook a meal together at the Ronald McDonald Room. I know we’ll be talking about it at our Easter dinner. And to everyone who has ever cooked a meal for that room – thank you. Your time and thoughtfulness make for priceless moments of normalcy in a tumultuous time.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Times & Transcript.