Something is going haywire in someone’s life, and I want to offer someone help. I walk up to the person at work, after the church service, or before class and sincerely say “hey, if there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.”
As before, there’s NOTHING wrong with offering to help. Helping someone else is one of the more precious gifts that can be given. In this winter season of giving, all I have to do is look to the babe that came down from heaven to help poor underserving sinners, to pardon sin by giving nothing less than his life.
But it is true that there are more and less effective ways to offer that help here on this confusing and marvelous ball of dirt. I’ve been one of those people who have generally offered help. I’ve also been sick and/or hurt and/or drugged and/or in the midst of a whirl of emotions while unspecific “help” is offered by a parade of faceless human-shaped blobs, their words a static wash. You might think that the person to whom you’re offering help knows your name, your face, your contact information, and that you’re a fantastic cook… but at this stressful point in that person’s life, s/he may not. Go ahead and send a text with your contact information, message the details on the Book of Face, send an electronic mail with your number, or sketch your charming visage on a scrap of notepaper and scrawl what you can do underneath it.
And what can you do? There probably are people out there who are perfectly content to make a general offer of help and then walk away, already smugly secure in the knowledge that the call will probably never come. They will never have to sacrifice their time or energy helping someone else. I’m not writing this for them. I’m writing it for those warriors out there who count the cost and determine that the price is worth paying anyway, those courageous ones who look at suffering and decide to do something. But equally, you have to protect yourself. What can you really do? Can you not lift heavy things? Can’t cook? 🙂 Maybe you’d like to be able to take someone to a 9am doctor’s appointment, but you have an 8-5 job and can’t get off. It’s all right to specify what you CAN do, so that you won’t be asked to do something you can’t. Honestly, it saves everyone some time and heartache. If you can’t lift heavy things but can give someone a ride, that may mean the world on a day when your friend can’t drive. If you can’t help during the week but can do the yardwork on Saturday morning twice a month, that will mean the homeowner’s association doesn’t pester someone to early incarceration in prison, due to using a flamethrower on the grass from his/her wheelchair. It all helps.
In an earlier post, I listed some websites that can help with scheduling (MealBaby, MealTrain, and CareCalendar), but those can take away from the personal nature of offering or giving help. Sometimes that can be good; sometimes it may be bad. And sometimes one simply has to offer help in the instant that the news becomes shared. (Even if you may also later log in to a website). Also, as someone who has needed help rather frequently, there’s nothing like an extensive list of people to call when something goes wrong that wasn’t/can’t be scheduled online.
Be brave, be strong… and have the courage to say what you can’t do as well as what you can. On both sides.