Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

A friend started chemo. She lives in the neighborhood. She has kids.

“Maybe we should organize some meals for her,” Sue said.

We live in that kind of neighborhood, but most people live in that kind of neighborhood, no matter where they live. That kind of neighborhood is everywhere. That kind that wants to do something for somebody when somebody needs help.

“Ask her and see if it’s OK,” Sue said.

I did. At first, she demurred not wanting, I suspect, to be a bother. Not wanting to be a burden. Not wanting to make a fuss.

“Let us help,” I said. “That’s what neighbors are for.”

She said yes. Sue set up a schedule to deliver meals on her chemo days. The neighborhood responded as neighborhoods do. People were eager to contribute as people are.

I couldn’t believe how good I felt. I was flooded with love, mostly self-love but love nonetheless. Not only was I the kind of person who helped, but who helped when somebody was going through something, when somebody was down, when somebody was not feeling their best.

It didn’t take much time or effort to elevate myself into sainthood status. Saint Herb. Saint Herb of Downtowntus.

What was really great about dipping my toe in the lake of virtue, was that I felt this good and I hadn’t done anything yet. I’d made a suggestion and then tapped out a couple of emails. I had the pre-glow of the pre-do without having to pre-form.

“You know I’m going to be gone the first week, but I could make that Italian wedding soup and freeze it and you could deliver it,” I said to Sue. “That could last her for two nights — the day of chemo and the day after.”

I was a two-night man. The day of and the day after. If she didn’t eat too much, she might get three meals out of it.

The Italian wedding soup has meatballs, spinach, carrots, onions and all kinds of goodies in it. The broth is chicken stock. There is nothing more comforting than chicken broth.

I felt like I was providing comfort by suggesting the soup alone. I was a comforter like some people in the social-media world are influencers.

“I’ll handle the first week,” Sue said. “People have stepped up for the next five weeks after that.”

Please. Let me help, but if I cannot, I understand. All I can do is offer. Offer and take credit. Offer and feel unusually good about myself. Offer and set myself up for a holy spot in the next life after all my good work here on earth is done.

I’m in love with this giving thing. Feeding the world. Comforting from my desk chair. I don’t even have to get up from my chair until my back starts hurting.

Had I known it was this easy, I would have been doing this sooner. Coming up with helpful ideas that help people help people who need help. Then, sitting back and letting other people feel good about themselves by following through on my helpful ideas.

I am poised to take my turn. To make my soup. Help even more than I have already although I’m not sure how that would be possible given what I’ve given so far.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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