The Profound Wisdom of Soup

I just finished a marathon month at work. It was awesome, and I am tired. Both/And, friends. This season is very Both/And.

I sat on Friday night at a reception with a woman I’ll call Paula. I meant to meet more people and to wander the room and to check in and to see how I could help — all part of my job as the event coordinator — but instead I found myself sinking down into the cushy red couch in front of the modern, clean-lined gas and glass fireplace, captured by Paula’s stories. Her enthusiasm for life. Her drive. Her losses. Her resilience. Her determination to help make the world a better place — to save and improve the lives of children she’s never met who are halfway across the world — which is, after all, why we were all there. 

Paula’s in her 60’s. Maybe. Best guess, really, based on her plans to retire which were thwarted when she was drawn and called to something else. Based on the ages of her daughters — one gone to Heaven now — and the raising of her grandson. Based on the stories of her mother and her grandmother who lived through the Depression.

In her 60’s maybe, wise and energetic with wide glasses, gray hair and an easy smile, and, perhaps my favorite, an apparent love of crab cakes and cheese, which makes her my soul sister, although I didn’t tell her so as I sipped my beer and listened. 

Because I’m a mama raising kids in affluent America — affluence measured my way, in access to clean water and flushing toilets and healthcare and shelter and food — I asked her the question I always wonder. “How do I raise kids with a global perspective? How do I raise kids who care about others without regard to borders and barriers? How do I raise kids who understand how to love their neighbors and love themselves and share that love extravagantly? How are you who you are, that you were raised here where you can choose to ignore suffering but you give up your Friday night and other countless hours and dollars to ease the suffering of others?”

And I’ll tell you what; I expected wisdom in the form of a pretty soundbite or a pithy saying or even a scripture verse… something obviously, you know, deep.

Instead, Paula said, “During the Depression, my grandmother served soup.”

“Those were the days when people were hungry,” Paula went on, “so my grandmother gave her neighbors what she had. Soup and bread. All the years the Depression lasted, soup and bread. My mother learned to see people and to love them from watching hers. I learned from watching mine. My daughters learned from watching me, and now, I hope, my grandson, too.”

And it struck me to the core, in the way a well-written soundbite or pithy saying never could, the profound wisdom of soup. Here we sat, two women who’d just met, sharing the legacy of love one woman began 85 years earlier over a pot of soup. 

I don’t know about you, but I wonder most days how to make what I do matter. How to pass on a legacy of love. How to help my kids learn to See people and to Love them well because there’s no greater calling or purpose I can imagine. No better way to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. No better way to ask the world to forgive the church for all the ways we’ve harmed others. Nothing bigger or deeper or wider or truer than to follow Love and listen well. I wonder if I’m doing enough. I wonder if I am enough. I wonder how I’m squandering time. 

And yet I sat with a woman Friday night who talked about her grandmother and a pot a soup, and I realized these things matter. These things, in fact, send ripples of love farther than we’ll ever know. 

So if you, like me, ever wonder if you’re enough — if the fourth load of laundry matters, or the casserole you dropped off at your friend’s house, or the kind comment you left for a stranger, or the desk job, or the dinners, or the bedtime stories — remember with me the profound wisdom of soup and legacy of grace a grandma leaves us decades later.

What you do matters. Who you are matters more. You are seen and you are loved. And every pot of soup makes a difference, whether we get to witness the ripples or not. 

Love to you today, friends,


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5 responses to “The Profound Wisdom of Soup”

  1. Thank you for sharing this experience and this insight. It has given me something to ponder to replace the worry and frustration I have felt that my contribution to life is in the hole.

  2. Thank you for the wisdom to give graciously and freely, without expectation, and without the need to be seen. Sometimes it is very hard to get ourselves out of the way and make much of the person sitting next to us.

  3. My mother in law is in her 70′ s now and has been making soup ever week for 2.5 years for my son who often times will refuse all other food. We call it ‘ the sure thing’. Just found out last week she has cancer. Sooo not cool. She matters to us, to my son, the kind, giving woman behind the soup.

  4. I talk to my 7yo daughter about other people who have less than us, whether it’s local people who need to use a food bank or my sponsored teenager in Mali who has never been to school because of her family’s poverty. I try to teach her compassion and try to get her to think before she judges (still working on that one every day myself). I know it feels like we should be saving the world but it’s like the Mother Theresa quote about how we can only do small things with great love. Keep sending out your ripples round the world, Beth!

  5. This was truly beautiful. The beauty in Paula’s story, the beauty in your stillness to listen, and to share it wtih us. There is beauty in your words, how you weave them together and take Paula’s beautiful tale and recount it for us with a love and a Beth-ness that feels like sitting next to you by that fire, sipping drinks while you tell us a tale of a friend you made one Friday night.

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