It was the week between Christmas and New Year’s – my birthday, as well. My husband was hospitalized with mysterious neurological complications from COVID, and, just to add to the mix, my heat was out.
What can I do to help?
I’m okay, really.
No, seriously, I want to help.
Well, keep me and my guy in your prayers.
Of course, but I want at least one TANGIBLE way to help.
I learned a lot from my dear, wise friend, “SH” that day. She made me realize that while so many of us genuinely care, we often don’t know how best to extend and deliver on that care in tangible ways.
In the days that followed, I leaned into SH’s offer to do things for me, tangibly. One late December night, she drove around looking for my Paxlovid prescription as it had been sent to the wrong pharmacy. A few days later, she dropped off a care package of classic comfort foods complete with tea bags and chicken soup.
What else do you need?
Nothing. You are an angel.
Okay, so what errand can I run for you?
SH was persistent and I appreciated her steadfast moxie aimed at supporting me through this rough patch.
Well, actually, there is something, but it would take you out of your way and be a complete pain. I had these cushions made before all of this happened and they need to be picked up.
Many of us espouse genuinely-held values rooted in our families of origin and our belief systems, but struggle with how to live them consistently and with, well, steadfastness. Not SH.
When a loved one, friend or neighbor is struggling with grief, loss, illness, isolation, or a personal boatload of life troubles, we can complement our prayers for them by learning how to extend help in a way that works.
Tips for Offering Tangible Help
Of course, “help” is not one size fits all, and it is only helpful if it is something that succeeds in lightening the other person’s load. So,
Consider what you know about that friend who is “going through something.” SH knew that I couldn’t leave the house and – as you may have noticed – acted on that key bit of knowledge. You can ask specific and targeted questions such as:
I am running to Costco on Tuesday. What can I pick up for you?
What day does your trash guy come? I’ll put out your barrel for you.
These questions are far more effective than asking:
Need anything at the store?
Do you want me to put out your trash barrel for you?
as these are more likely to elicit a “No, I’m fine” response.
Make it hard for them to say No. We’ve all been through rough times. That’s something you can use to make it easier for your friend in need to accept your help. You can say:
It was really hard to stay on top of things when Joey was so ill. I don’t know what I would have done without a little help here and there. What specific thing can I do that would lighten your load a bit right now?
Be a little presumptuous. Another friend, “HC,” texted this to me when I was well enough to visit my husband in the hospital every day for two weeks:
So sad you are going through this. I have your key, so what day can I come by the vacuum or do some laundry?
If all of this sounds a little “bold” for you, keep these ideas in mind:
- Helping others is clinically proven to help you. It goes both ways.
- Espousing your values is one thing. The much greater reward lies in living them.
- That person on the receiving end will never forget the love and kindness expressed in deeds, not words.