Me in my buoyant swimsuit. 1975
Cautious as always.
Me in my buoyant swimsuit. 1975
Cautious as always.
Hannah (age 12) trying to keep her brother in order.
All around us people are hurting. A cancer diagnosis. A death in the family. A car accident. One spouse walks out on another. A child dies. We want to help. We’re just not sure what exactly that looks like.
Here are some practical tips for caring for people in crisis:
1. Offer specific tangible help.
Instead of saying ‘Let us know if you need anything.”, say:
“I would like to bring dinner over on Tuesday at 5pm. Do you have any allergies?”
“I’d like to come over and do some cleaning and laundry on Wednesday morning from 9-11am. Would that work?”
“I have a gift card for your family so you can order in a meal. I’ll drop it by on my way home from work.”
“Would the kids be able to come over to our place for dinner on Tuesdays at 6pm for the next few weeks?”
“I’ll cover your meeting Monday. Is there anything you’d like me to share with the staff?”
2. Text. Email. Call and leave a message. Visit. But don’t make it worse.
It doesn’t help if they have to manage your pain. By all means reach out. Just be careful to offer support and encouragement rather than escalating the situation. Approach people with compassion, not pity.
“I just heard. We love you guys. We’ve got you covered in prayer.”
“We loved her. It’s such a shock that she’s gone.”
“Great to see you. You’ve been in our hearts so much this week.”
“I can’t stop crying. I am so sad for you.”
“That is such terrible news. I don’t know how I’ll tell my kids.”
“How ARE you?” accompanied by sad eyes.
“How will you ever manage? I couldn’t do it.”
3. Don’t offer advice unless asked directly.
This is not the time to share with people that God works all things together for good. Allow them to experience that themselves, over long periods of time. They may have been diagnosed with the same type of rare cancer that your sister-in-law had, but this is not the time to share. Every person’s cancer, grief, pain, recovery, journey is different. This is the time to listen. If they want advice, they’ll ask for it. This is especially true for spiritual advice. This is not the time to tell people they need to read their bibles, or trust God, or that God has a plan for their lives. Provide comfort, care, and a listening ear and allow God to work in their lives directly.
4. Ask yourself “What would be the most compassionate response?”.
Should you go to the funeral? Yes.
Should you email, call, or text after you’ve heard the news? Yes.
Should you offer specific, tangible help? Yes.
Should you show up without calling and overstay your welcome? No.
Ask what the most compassionate response would be in the situation and do it.
5. Do what THEY need, not what you need.
If you’d feel better visiting the person in the hospital but the family has asked for no visitors, don’t go. Respect the wishes of the family. If the family has said they will update by email but can’t respond to individual emails, keep writing, but don’t ask questions that need responses. If they let you know what they need, believe them. This is about caring for their needs.
6. If in doubt ask.
What can we do to help?
What do you need most right now?
Would you like more meals?
Do you need drives to appointments?
Be helpful, supportive, and encouraging. Provide strength, support, a listening ear and tangible care. Show up. Be there. Reach out. Offer compassion and love, not pity.
I am afraid to be still and let my thoughts rise to the surface. I keep busy, puttering, reading newspapers and blogs, cleaning, organizing, reading about cleaning and organizing, making lists, finishing tasks, checking email, texting, checking twitter, checking Facebook, checking my email again. I don’t let my mind rest. I always have music or a podcast playing on my iPod.
It’s sometimes easier to keep myself distracted than allow the space to think too much.
Why does silence scare me? It’s like I’m afraid of the conclusions I’ll reach if I have the time and space to think things through.
It’s easier to drown out the voices in my head if I’m too busy to stop and listen and if I keep a steady stream of other noise as a constant soundtrack in my mind.
I was reading this passage in Matthew this week and for the first time was struck by certain words.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,”Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
At once they left their nets.
Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
(Source: Washington Post)
I like to follow rules and stay in the lines. I follow the speed limit and stop for 3 full seconds at every stop sign. I don’t litter. I tip. I tithe. I volunteer. I read my Bible. I wash my face before I go to sleep every night. I don’t do it to make myself feel better than others. I can’t seem to help myself.
Lately I’ve realized so much of my life is about checklists.
Bed made ✔
Bathroom cleaned ✔
Floors swept ✔
I find lists add order to my life. They make me feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Yet in my relationships, I’d never think of making lists. It seems ridiculous.
Spend 20 minutes in deep conversation with first born ✔
Thank the Professor for making dinner ✔
Text two friends ✔
Yet, I’ve realized lately that my faith has become a bit of a check list. Don’t get me wrong. I’m crazy about Jesus. I’m in ministry. I love reading faith blogs and books on faith. I not only attend service weekly, I lead a LifeGroup where we do more in depth studies, and I podcast one or two other messages every week. I love learning. I love growing in faith. Yet, why am I even telling you this? I’m questioning my motives.
Is my check list Christianity in place because I feel I somehow have to earn my faith? Or to make myself feel better because I’ve met the criteria of what it means to be a ‘good Christian’? Am I so concerned about getting this right and being good that I’ve lost the essence of what faith is? Relationships aren’t check lists.
I think, if I’m really honest with myself it comes down to:
feeling somehow I still have to earn my faith ✔
feeling like I’m only a ‘good enough’ Christian if I meet certain high standards ✔
fearing what others would think if I didn’t fit within the margins of my narrowly defined orthodoxy ✔
I know I’ve got it wrong. I’m just not sure how to change it.