Do you ever find it hard to comfort or support a person who is sick, grieving, in a difficult season of life, or simply down in the dumps? I know this landscape from both sides of the fence. Meaning: I have not known how to communicate to those who love me what would make me feel cared for or make my life easier. But also, conversely, I struggle to find fit-for-purpose encouragement and help for those around me who could use it most.
One thing to note, helping others will cost us some of our precious time. It takes a heart of generosity with our selfish resources: time, energy and money.
From my experience, whether a family has had a new baby, is dealing with illness, or could simply use a little TLC, the following list could help ignite some ideas into actions:
Make a meal
- Making a well-balanced meal and taking into consideration any allergies or dietary restrictions, is probably one of the most helpful things a person could do. When life explodes, home cooked meals are a chore and a burden.
Fruit and veggie platter
- Time is of the essence. I am not a confident cook and since I am a “hipster” cook, I am nervous to share my concoctions. If I am limited on time, I often chop up a fresh fruit or veggie platter to deliver.
Drop off a magazine or a movie
- Energy levels are low. It’s nice to take a mental break from whatever is ailing you. A magazine or a movie are a welcome distraction.
Notes and cards
- Encouraging words, prayers and thoughts go a long way. It makes a person feel less alone in their struggle. Tread carefully: don’t forget what circumstance the person is in. I far too often want to help solve whatever is going on. This is a downfall of mine. I think we as humans temporarily feel better about life just having a solution, rather than the best solution.
- Advice might not be welcome.
- You might not understand what they are going through.
- Allow the person to grieve whatever they need to, before providing happy-go-lucky fluff.
Support their spouse/children
- Don’t neglect the family. When one soldier falls on the front lines, the others suffer. I don’t know any child who doesn’t love an age appropriate craft or a walk to the park.
- Husband/wife: drop off a case of beer, a bottle of wine. Whisk them out for a coffee or hockey game at a pub. Spouses need breaks, too.
Household chores and errands
- If you have the financial means to send a house cleaner, do that. If you can order them pizza or Vietnamese take out, do that. If you can pick up their five loads of laundry baskets to fold it, and bring it back, do that. If you can drop off a tea or a coffee, do that. If you can pick up a few groceries, do that. If you can wash floors, shovel drive ways or mow lawns, do those. If the person is like me and needs to have their bedding ironed, serve them by ironing their bedding, or whatever person-specific-need your friend might have.
Meet the need
- Pay their phone bill. Babysit their kids. Drive them to the doctor. Cook them a meal. Send them flowers.
Share your joy
- … but with sensitivity. If the person has had trouble paying their bills, don’t indulge in the details of your online spending spree. If the person has just lost their job, don’t talk about how you have had to turn away offers. Do share your joy with topic appropriate sensitivity. Share the funny story about your kid tapping his eye shut, share your victory in running a half marathon, share your hopes, share your day- to-day musings. We as people need reminders that there is joy and hope, even if it’s not part of our vision at the moment.
- If you don’t know what the person is going through, and it can be researched, do it. Empathy, not sympathy, matters greatly.
- Bring them a token of love. A bag of David’s tea, a pair of fun socks, a set of amazing paper napkins, a chocolate bar …
- Being asked how the person is feeling over and over again will become an automatic reply. I know for me, if I am not feeling well, I feel expected to say that I am doing better than the last time we chatted. Rather, as a woman, I like to ask the question “How is your heart?”. To be honest, that is the sure fire way of cutting to the marrow.
- Even if serving someone is an inconvenience, don’t make them feel like one. As a mentioned above, any of these items above will cost you something. They will be inconvenient. But, suck it up.
- Don’t be offended if the person you’re trying to get in touch with doesn’t text or call back right away.
- I personally don’t know family that doesn’t go without the essentials: fruit, meat, vegetables and milk (dairy free milk)… oh and chocolate.
- Don’t overstay your welcome.
- Organize a “help” rotation on the person’s behalf.
- Ask around. Ask their mother, their best friend, their spouse if there are specific needs you can meet.
And a closing word to the wise…. as service and gifts are the main ways I display my love, I have a tendency to serve others at my family’s expense. Be aware of your own family’s needs, but don’t use this as an excuse not to serve others. This is a warning not to overextend yourself.
Additionally, an area we as a family struggle, is how to serve others as a family unit. I don’t have the answers to this yet, but this is something to strive toward.
Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!