Obsessively, I pulled dairy products, leftover food, fresh fruits and vegetables out of the refrigerator and packed all of it in a cooler to take to my daughter's house. With four children, she could use it. I did not want to return home from a week's vacation to rotten food or outdated milk and yogurt. I never have emptied the fridge so thoroughly as I did before that trip last year when a spring cleaning mood swept over me.

A good thing I did, though, because I broke my leg miles away from home. I needed surgery and recovery time. We chose to do the initial repairs near my daughter. We didn't need any food at our house. We ate, slept and lived with her (or in the hospital) for more than a month. The month of living away from home and being my primary caregiver exhausted my husband.

Finally, the doctor replaced the open cast with a brace and released me to go home to exercise. We packed up our luggage, the shower chair, wheelchair and walker. I shoved myself across the back seat of the car surrounded by a dozen pillows. Halfway home, we stopped to buy gas, and I begged him to unpack the walker so I could slide out and just stand for a while. The drive home exhausted me.

We dragged into the house late in the afternoon. I slumped into the lounge chair with my foot propped up high. My husband sank into the couch. We stared at each other. We were home. We did not have anything for supper. We needed groceries. My husband looked so tired. He knew he would have to do the grocery shopping. Just the thought of dragging out of the house again that day burdened him.

I had begun mentally scrambling for ideas when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“You don't know me, but I read your column and have been reading about your accident. I wanted to bring you some taco soup. I wanted to come bring something earlier but I couldn't,” the caller quickly explained.

“Well, thank you. That would be greatly appreciated. You would not have been able to bring it to us before today anyway We just got home from staying in Little Rock for a month. Let me tell you where we live.”

The reader came promptly with a warm pot emitting a delicious smell. Hubby quickly transferred it to one of our containers and thanked her profusely. “You have no idea how much we really needed that soup today,” I said, looking at my relieved husband.

She left, and we enjoyed taco soup and chips. Hubby slid the leftovers into the refrigerator.

That taco soup lasted a long time. Not that she gave us so much. No, by the next day, friends heard and neighbors saw that we had returned and took turns bringing us prepared meals. Most meals included a hot vegetable. Several included freshly made rolls. We enjoyed the meals and added any leftover vegetables to the soup. We ate leftover soup with homemade rolls about once a day for the next couple weeks.

I recalled that Soup for the Sick last week as I emptied cans of vegetables over sauteed and seasoned ground meat to make soup.

Such a blessing we enjoyed last spring from the time that first dinner arrived shortly after we realized how desperately we needed it. And blessing piled on blessing as other meals followed through my summer of healing. Our once-very-empty refrigerator overflowed with the kindness of many until I returned to the kitchen.

Joan Hershberger is a retired journalist who lives in Parkers Chapel with her husband. She may be reached atjoanh@eldoradonews.com