Six years ago, my family received devastating news: our 5-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. Our world was officially turned upside down.
Well-meaning family, friends, and strangers alike turned out in droves with words of support, prayers, and offers to help. We are so fortunate to live in a society in which people help during crisis. However, many times it ends up being a bunch of people standing around because they don’t know what to do.
People say things like, My thoughts and prayers are with you. While that is nice to know, as my husband so bluntly pointed out, talk is cheap. They also say, Let me know if you need anything.
Many times, the person facing the crisis has no idea what they need. And if they are anything like me, they won’t ask anyway.
Honestly, I’ve been guilty of saying both of these, even since my son’s death. People we care about face so many hardships in their lives – from death, divorce, and illness to job loss, family trauma, and more. Many people feel simply helpless in the face of a crisis. Go ahead and offer your support, prayers, and love, but here are nine other practical things you can do to help a family facing a crisis.
1. Provide necessities.
Drop off some groceries, especially items that get used every day. You can never have enough bread, cereal, milk, laundry soap, toilet paper, and Kleenex.
2. Make a meal.
Bring a freezer-ready meal or all the fixings for a meal when they need it.
3. Coordinate with friends.
There are many meal sites like Meal Train and Take them a Meal which allow you to coordinate with members of a community or church to help a family. Check with your local grocery store to see if they will deliver a meal – many do.
4. Help with chores.
Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, clean a bathroom, vacuum, or fold some laundry. These are the last things that get done when a family is in crisis. You can even combine these with a much-needed visit.
5. Care for the kids.
If the family has children, offer to take them to the park, a movie, or out for ice cream. Offer to babysit for free if the parents need to go to an appointment or just need some time away. This is a treat for the children, too, who will be feeling the stress of the situation.
6. Offer to organize.
Paperwork and appointments can get overwhelming. Assist with combining all of these into one easy place. Help set up a grocery delivery, dry cleaning, house cleaning, or lawn service. Help them to get bills on autopay. Give them a system they don’t need to worry about.
7. Send a gift card.
Gift cards provide a handy and easy way to get a cup of coffee or a sandwich when it’s needed most – usually between appointments.
8. Be there to listen.
Or not. This is probably one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes we want to talk, cry, and work things out and need someone to just listen. Sometimes we’re tired of talking, but we don’t want to be alone. Be there for whatever they need.
9. Take no offense.
Never stop showing that you care. Corresponding on social media, sending a card or a text, or making a phone call to say you’re thinking of someone is always appreciated. Just don’t be upset if you don’t hear back. Know that they saw and appreciated your kind words. Send them again another day. You never know if that will be the day they need them the most.
Lastly, remember this one thing: anything you do out of genuine caring and kindness is never wrong. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.