Soup Carrying

Look Out For a Soup Carrier

Here’s a letter of advice written by Lila in the early 1990’s to my brother. She based her advice on the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Just for a moment, pretend Lila is your mom. You will profit from this life-changing advice.

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

Dear Child of Mine,

In response to you wanting a definition of “soup carrying”, I took a line from a book, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, written in 1952.

It was a line spoken by the father to his son, “Joe thought of his bumbling father—because he remembered something the old man had told him. “Look out for a soup carrier, ” Joe’s father had said. “Take one of them dames that’s always carrying soup to somebody— she wants something, and don’t you forget it.” Joe said under his breath, “A soup carrier. I thought she was smarter than that.” He went over her tone and words to make sure he hadn’t missed something. No —a soup carrier. And he thought of Alf saying, “If she was to offer a drink or even a cupcake—””

She was a woman who brought soup to him, to comfort the body, but in reality it was a mask to try to force her values on him, to reform him.

I was haunted by the concept. To modify this thought for my own life, I began to realize that a soup carrier is a meddler, one who take it upon themselves to solve another’s person’s problems.

Mothers get caught up in this with their young children, who are indeed their responsibility. But, children grow up and become adults, while mothers still remain meddlers. I had become a meddler not only with my children, but also with those around me, and other adults. I needed to learn to back off, and let you kids live your own lives, and to take responsibility for your own actions, and with other adults, to stop meddling.

But, how to do it? And why did I do it in the first place?

Cans of Chicken Noodle Soup on a Shelf

I reasoned that “soup carrying” is a misguided Christian endeavor…love your neighbor as self…etc. (Love thy neighbor as thyself is another letter of discussion, if you care to ask sometime.)

Anyway, I examined my motives for offering to help others and I found I was (1) often imposing my will on others, (2) looking for recognition, appreciation or some kind of feedback, (3) just plain meddling.

I have found the key to control this desire to “carry soup” is to respond only when asked, and to never impose my will on others. This takes considerable thinking on my part. I have also tried to cultivate better listening habits. In short, to keep my mouth shut. (As you know, this is not easy for me, to be still.)

Further, when we jump in and say to someone, “Oh, let me do this or that for you.” (without being asked), we deny that person the privilege of solving their own problems, and to grow. For we all know, we learn by doing.

Also, people complain, even ask for help, when the truth is they like to complain, do not like to solve problems, and enjoy heaping their indecisions and malcontent on others. Now they have made the other person just as miserable as they are. So, one must learn to protect themselves from this and yet be able to listen. To be able to recognize when to help and when not to help is a challenge, one of the facets of living that makes it all so interesting!

Cans of Cream of Chicken Soup on a Shelf

So, remember each of us must live our own lives and take our responsibility for our actions. We must not meddle. But, we can model. As others observe our behavior in any given situation, they can learn positive actions from us. We can also listen and care.

Leave the preaching to preachers and carrying soup to the wait staff of a restaurant.



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