Yesterday a friend of mine posted something like this on Facebook:
“It has been a bad week. The kids were sick, so didn’t get to visit family out of state. We lost our health insurance. I am waiting in the hospital while my husband has his appendix taken out. It’s been stressful.”
Immediately the responses were numerous. And predictable. “I’m so sorry.” “That sucks.” “I’m praying for you.” “Let me know how I can help.”
Stop. I am begging you. If you are a friend of someone in need, STOP.
Those are not helpful responses. Those are narcissistic responses. Those are, “oh, social media, look at me, the caring friend” responses.
You want to help your friend in need? Here is how to help:
1. Pray. Right now. Just pray. Silently. Out loud. Doesn’t matter. And, here’s the kicker. Don’t Facebook, blog or tweet about it. Just do it. Jesus hears you, I promise. If you feel prompted to let your friend know you prayed for her, let her know, but just her, and only if the Spirit so prompts.
2. Pray in one of these ways: call and pray over the phone with your friend (probably the most bold choice, unless you choose to drive to wherever she is and pray in person with her, which is an excellent choice, too), call and pray on her voice mail, text a prayer, write a prayer note and drop it in the mail, or email a prayer.
3. Give a very specific offer of help. “How can I help?” is actually NOT helpful, because what your friend probably needs she is either too embarrassed or overwhelmed to ask for. Call or text and say, “Hey, I can bring dinner over tomorrow. Is lasagna at 6:00 okay?” Or, “I’m running to the store about 2:00. What do you need?” Or, “Who is picking up your kids from soccer today?” Or, “Hey, I have a few hours on Saturday. I will be over at 3:30 to help clean, do laundry, mow your yard, hold your new baby while you nap, etc. etc.” Be very specific. Also, be flexible. She may say 3:30 doesn’t work, but 4:30 does.
4. Anonymously drop some cash in the mail. Last year my husband was laid off unexpectedly for a few days. We received an anonymous gift of cash in the mail. Now, I am almost 100% certain I know who sent it, but it paid half of our mortgage and allowed us to leave our emergency fund in tact. It was a huge blessing and an equally huge stress relief.
5. Arrange a care calendar. If your friend is going to need long term help, arrange for it. Set up an online system of meal delivery, lawn maintenance, house care, etc. There are all sorts of websites dedicated to this, and you can send the links via email to your church members, mom groups, friends, relatives, neighbors, whoever.
6. Don’t be easily offended. I actually offered lasagna to yesterday’s friend in need, totally forgetting the entire family is lactose intolerant. We compromised on spaghetti with marinara sauce 🙂 Not a big deal, but I realize some people might be offended. However, she and I are also good enough friends that she was comfortable enough to say, “Nope! Can’t eat that!”
I guess I am ultra sensitive to this right now. Last year my mother had surgery and stayed with us for about ten days, and aside from my nurse friend who I called in a panic one day (who rushed over while on her own maternity leave to look at my mom’s incision), I cannot recall one offer of help from any of my friends. I was sinking as I took care of a very needy just-about-to-turn three year old with sleep issues and a recovering knee surgery patient. Keith was working tons, the weather was icky, and I don’t recall even one phone call or text just checking in. There were certainly no offers of dinners or ” hey! can I take your kid for the afternoon?”. Because I feel like I am the type to offer those things, that is just beyond me (and, quite possibly, one of the things that prompted our journey away from our former church).
I thought perhaps you might have a friend in need, today, as well. If you do, think through this list. Maybe you can help her in a very concrete way, instead of offering a simple platitude on social media.