I have some very fond memories of working Turkey, Ham, and Oyster Dinners as a young man. For those who didn’t grow up in the back of beyond, these were events that happened on a Saturday or Sunday to benefit the local fire hall. They were usually run by the Ladies Auxiliary groups of the local fire departments, and were a staple of country community. Very often, the men of the local company (and their children) chipped in by working in the kitchen, bussing tables, and doing the dishes. The cost to the public was $5 a plate and you were welcome to eat all you wanted. Tables were arranged and the meals were served family style. You ate with who ever happened to be at the table, whether they were family or not. I learned the value of a hard day’s work at these events, and I’m sure my dad enjoyed seeing me work rather than riding my skateboard.
I also learned that it felt damn good to pitch in and make a difference. Over the years, I had many opportunities to pitch in and help.
So, when I first started attending 12 Step meetings and I heard a lot about “service work” and how helpful it is for our recovery it came as no surprise. I heard people talk about taking a position in home groups, such as making the coffee or being the designated greater. And for a while, I was the coffee guy one day a week at my 6:00 AM meeting. I enjoyed it, it gave me a sense of purpose and ensured that I was there to talk with people before the meeting.
Over time, that meeting didn’t fit my life anymore, and that was okay. I haven’t found another meeting that I feel is my “home group” in the past year and so I’ve questioned whether I’m doing service work anymore.
Last summer, I had the privilege of meeting another blogger, Liv of Liv’s Recovery Kitchen while I was on a business trip to California. Over dinner, I confessed that I felt like I wasn’t doing service work anymore. Liv said, “Oh but you are, you write your blog. It helps people.” And I started to think about what it means to perform service work.
I’ve come to believe that service work can and should expand beyond the home group. For many in early recovery the service work opportunities in a home group may be the first service work that they have done in their lives. For some, it may be the first that they’ve been trusted with in a long time. It’s important to do the service work because it helps us to establish the habit. It also teaches us that we can be trustworthy and reliable in a safe place.
If the coffee doesn’t get made because the guy who was supposed to do it didn’t show, someone else will pick up the slack. That’s not to excuse skirting responsibilities, but it is to say that the small steps that we take in early recovery towards serving our fellow humans are just that, baby steps.
But, if you believe as I do, that the point of recovery is to live a rich and full life, there comes a time when you may find that you need to perform service work outside your home group. And I believe that should be encouraged.
Service work can come in many forms. It can be coaching your child’s sports program. It can be volunteering at a soup kitchen. It can be writing a blog. Anything that you do for other people with no expectation of a reward is service work. And all of it is fulfilling and life giving. Indeed, if you believe that anything that enhances life can be spiritual and that “Spiritual power comes from whatever gives us peace, hope or strength and enhances our humanity,”1 then service work is by definition, spiritual.
Recently, I had the opportunity to help a friend in recovery who’s wife is having chemotherapy for breast cancer. I’d heard that she’d gotten the diagnosis and had been meaning to call, but hadn’t because life got in the way as it does when we have something to do which scares us. So one afternoon, while I was driving home, I gave him a call.
We talked for a few minutes and I asked him if I could do anything to help him. He said, no, were good. I interjected, “how about if I make you some lasagna’s this weekend?”
Now, my man knows that I cook, a lot. And he’d be a fool to turn down that offer, so he didn’t. He asked if I could do some veggie and some meat. Sure, no problem. Because, it isn’t a problem. We had a plan.
And I had some service work.
I spent the following Saturday afternoon making three lasagnas. Two for my buddy, and one for my family. We all benefitted. I felt amazing that day and when I delivered the food, I could tell how much my friend appreciated the help.
Later that evening, I got a text telling me his wife loved both lasagnas and asking for the recipe.
Now, I’m far from perfect, so it’s taken me three weeks to make good on getting him the recipe. See, I don’t really cook by recipe so I had to take some time to write it down, and that’s hard for me for some reason. But I finally wrote it down this afternoon, and sent it over to him.
Since he liked it so much, I thought I’d pass it on to all of you. Enjoy.
Sauce & Filling
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 head broccoli, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 16 oz jar pasta sauce (or make your own)
2 15 oz tubs part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated romano
1/2 Tbsp oregano
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 box no boil lasagna
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
6-8 slices provolone (optional)
- Heat Olive Oil over medium/medium high heat. Sauté veggies and spices until done. I try to release as much water as possible so that when I mix in the sauce, things don’t get runny.
- Mix in the sauce, reserving 1/2 cup for the bottom of the oven pan and top of the lasagna. I try to make this somewhat thick because when the veggies further cook, they will release water and you will end up with a liquid mess if the sauce mixture isn’t tight. Heat the sauce and veggie mixture thoroughly.
- Mix ricotta, eggs, cheeses and spices together in a bowl.
- Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with reserved pasta sauce.
- Place three sheets of no-boil lasagna on the bottom of the pan. It’s okay if they overlap. It’s also okay if they don’t cover the entire width of the pan, they will expand.
- Add a layer of veggie/sauce mixture to cover the lasagna noodles.
- Add a layer of ricotta mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella.
- Add a second layer of noodles, and repeat steps 6 & 7.
- Do that again, so that you have three layers of goodness.
- Cover final layer with lasagna noodles.
- Cover noodles with remaining 1/4 cup reserved sauce.
- Cover sauce with mozzarella and/or provolone.
- Cover lasagna with foil.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 375F.
- Uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes to brown cheese (optional)
- Let rest for 15 minutes before attempting to slice.
- Serve to your hungry family and watch them smile as a hush falls over the room.
To make a meat variation of this, substitute 1 lb of ground beef or bison in place of the veggies.
Make an extra meaty version with 1 lb of ground meat and 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage. Remove sausage from casing (or buy it loose) and break it up as it cooks with the other ground meat.
- Cleveland, Martha; G., Arlys. The Alternative 12 Steps: A Secular Guide to Recovery (Kindle Locations 502-503). AA Agnostica. Kindle Edition. ↩︎