This is from this week’s e-newsletter from Hearts at Home. It’s an excellent read.
When Times Get Rough
by Becky Wiese
Nobody ever said that being a wife, mother and friend was always going to be easy. Every day brings its share of challenges and stressful situations that seem to push us to the limits of our tolerance level. All in all, we generally make it through each day intact, traveling along life’s winding road and carefully navigating the hills, valleys, bumps and curves, occasionally screeching at a stop light or rushing through a yellow.
Unfortunately, there are also those times when we hit a “pothole.” Potholes come in lots of shapes and sizes–unexpectedly losing a job, suddenly being transferred to a new city, a child who’s having trouble in school, a difficult pregnancy, a seriously ill child, teen-age rebellion, becoming sandwiched between your children and your parents in order to care for both. You can name your own crisis.
Any major life change is a candidate for being a pothole simply because it can throw your life out of alignment just as the craters that lurk in parking lots and streets after the spring thaw can damage our car. The question we are faced with is, “How can we help each other survive these unexpected jolts?” A friend’s life has been turned upside down and we want to do something, anything, but often we don’t know exactly what to do, so we end up doing nothing. Here are some ideas to help you get started the next time a friend hits a pothole. I share them with you not as an expert in hospitality but as the recipient of many acts of kindness after hitting my own pothole. Expand and tailor them to your own situation.
There are different levels of involvement, all of which are appreciated greatly by those going through hard times. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” is definitely applicable, but I would add that “words are louder than thoughts.” The point is, if you’re thinking and praying for someone, tell them. Don’t feel like “only” sending a card or making a phone call isn’t important. Every bit of encouragement helps!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
*Send a card or note. This is the easiest and fastest ways to let a friend know that you care about what is going on in their life.
*Prepare all or part of a meal and deliver it. Be sure they know when you are coming! Consider doing breakfast or lunch meals, too.
*Run errands. Taxi kids here or there, go to the grocery store, get the car washed, return books to the library, etc.
*Volunteer to do housework and/or yardwork. Run the vacuum, mow the yard, rake leaves, shovel snow, wash dishes, do the laundry, pick up the mail, dust, clean bathrooms–the opportunities to help are endless!
*Baby-sit for a few hours or even overnight. When Mom and Dad are stressed, it’s hard on kids, too. They need some fun things to do so they don’t feel like their world is crashing down around them. Spending time with their friends will give them a sense of security and normalcy, plus it will give Mom and Dad some time together to deal with the impact of the pothole.
*Visit them in person. Sometimes a hug and a shoulder to cry on are exactly what is needed to make it through the day.
*Provide financial support. The miscellaneous expenses that pop up during a crisis can be a financial strain for anyone, regardless of their job or insurance status. Extra cash is very helpful in offsetting some of these additional expenses.
*Pray for the family’s specific needs. Pray for the doctors, employers, travelers, teachers–whomever and whatever affects and is affected by the crisis can be bathed in prayer.
*Follow up. Very rarely is a crisis completely resolved in a week or two. Check periodically to make sure your friend isn’t stranded by the side of the road. They may have gotten past the pothole, but they may also have suffered a flat tire or need a jump start. Even though the initial impact of the crisis may be over, the repercussions of whatever happened still linger.
One more thing to keep in mind – when someone is going through hard times, it may be difficult for them to ask for your help doing any or all of the ideas listed above. Be proactive rather than reactive: Tell them what you want to do to help and when you’re going to do it.
When the going gets rough we want to be there for our friends. After all, that’s what friends are for. Hopefully these ideas will provide some concrete ways you can help the next time someone you care about hits a pothole.