Making Do

I’ve always thought of “making do” as substituting something else for a missing ingredient in a recipe, or going without if we’re short of money.  In other words, having less and just living with it. 

In “Love Is the Way,” though, Bishop Michael Curry has a totally different interpretation that dates back to his grandmother and his childhood.  When cuts of meat were cheap or undesirable; when there wasn’t enough to go around, his grandmother always said, “We’ll make do.”  And make do she did, by bringing in the spices and aromas of Africa, by adding vegetables and grains.  She took the simple and transformed it into something deeply flavorful and comforting.  Even though they left the Jim Crow South, she was a Southern cook at the heart of it.

Photo by Ella Olsson on

   “It satisfied completely,” Bishop Curry recalled.  “You didn’t mind not having a huge plateful when every taste just filled you, body and soul.”  That’s the reason it was called “soul food.” 

   “She put three ingredients into every dish she made: creativity, imagination, and God,” wrote the Bishop.  His grandmother, he said, had lived a life filled with pain and hardship, but instead of seeing what little she had, she saw possibility.  Her cup wasn’t half full, it overflowed.

As much as Bishop Curry loved her food, he loved watching her make it and listening to her stories.  Stories of her childhood, of his mother who died when he was just thirteen.  Stories of growing up in the old South and working as a sharecropper.  He would listen to her voice wash over him and fill him as she worked her miracles on food white people would have discarded as scrap.

Isn’t there much we can learn from that today?  In these dark days, surely, we can look around us and find possibility!  Surely, we can tell each other stories from our childhood, the moments that shaped us!  Surely, we can make do with creativity and imagination and a deep belief in God!

I am so grateful that I started my path to a healthy lifestyle.  The specter of COVID would be much more terrifying were I in the same poor health I was four years ago.  I learned that the art of cooking with deep love is a healing balm in and of itself.  I also learned, like Bishop Curry, that you don’t need much of something when its taste just explodes in your mouth. 

If you are exercising at a gym, think through how you would exercise at home in case the gyms close in your neighborhood.  I am very fortunate to have an elliptical, but if I didn’t, I would use the stairs as my cardio.  There are plenty of exercises I can do on the floor or the stairs, or with my set of resistance bands.  If you don’t have weights, try a rolling pin.  You can figure out what your own possibilities are.

I am grateful that we have a means of connecting with people we love over the Internet.  I have three dear friends with whom I connect every week on Google Hangouts.  In truth, I wouldn’t have seen them nearly so often if there weren’t a pandemic, and we have actually grown closer.  That connection is vital to us,  and that time together just lifts my spirits!  We exchange ideas for movies and books, send links to helpful resources, and we laugh to bring light into our lives.  I do the same with a larger group of friends who call themselves the “Tea Ladies,” and we talk with our sons every week, even though they’re scattered from Massachusetts to England.  We take the time to make do.

I make do by taking Gracie to the dog park.  It’s delightful and lighthearted because she’s such a goofball!  She wants to meet all her new best friends right away, but when she gets close to another dog, she just hunkers down on the ground or rolls onto her back.  One person said we should have named her “Possum!”  You can’t help but smile when you watch her and see the happiness just shining out of her eyes.

Yes, these times are tough.  I think, though, that I am going to continuously focus on making sure my cup isn’t just half full, but overflowing.  With creativity, imagination and God, we can all find our way to the other side by making do.

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