When our friends or congregation members are in times of crisis, we are eager to help. But often when we call, we express our sympathy, and then say, “Please let me know what I can do!”
Unfortunately, while the sentiment behind such a statement is good, the reality is that we’ve just added one more thing to the distressed person’s plate. To figure out what to ask someone to do for us when we’re in crisis is nearly impossible, and probably means we won’t ask for anything at all, though our needs may be great.
What to do instead? Anything.
Think about your own life, and put yourself in their shoes. If you were in their position, what would you need, moment by moment, as you face that crisis?
Here are a few ideas which are pretty general needs for most families …
- Take a meal - Be prepared to be available to stay and talk/listen or not be invited in.
- Make room in your schedule – We are all busy with our to-do lists. However, families in crisis need our availability. Drop your agenda to help them. Be accessible, but not overbearing. Listen. Sit. Allow time and space for tears, talking and silence and prayer.
- Serve the family by offering to do daily tasks - This could be things like washing, folding, ironing, mowing lawns etc. Phrase acts of kindness by saying ‘we would like to do this for you (not ‘can we…’ or ‘how can we help?’ Be specific.)
- Provide financial support - Often during times of crisis, work is interrupted and there may not be sufficient holiday pay. Ordinary bills continue to pile up, there are often extra medical expenses, cars need fuel and food needs to be purchased.
- Give hope - Send a card and continue to send messages of prayer and encouraging bible verses. You may not know what to say, but these words are often received at just the right time. This support through the following months helps the family to know others haven’t forgotten them.
- Help with children - When parents are overwhelmed and minds spinning, they are also often short-tempered and low on entertaining ideas. Children in the family know something is wrong and they may be stressed, too. Having a trusted adult take them out for a couple of hours or the day is such a welcome thing. In most cases, mum and dad may be feeling guilty about ‘not’ being very fun in their current situation.
After the death of our son, a great many people supported us in our grief. We were overwhelmed with the love, kindness and generous acts of service given to us by our family, friends, church and work communities. It was this kindness, prayers, support and encouragement that carried us through our dark weeks and months. We experienced several very creative ways people sought to help us during this period. Providing a meal was just one of these ways.
One day, a very dear friend came to the door to drop off a meal. My sister answered the door and was very thankful for the gift, but explained that we had a freezer full of meals and we couldn’t receive her gift. The gracious friend was very kind, saying she would pop it in her freezer and bring it back later. This friend did come back later that day but this time she brought back not only the meal but a freezer too. The note left on top said ‘now you won’t need to knock back any more meals!’