A few months ago our family found ourselves on the opposite side of a surgery. Instead of being the church staff person coming to offer care we were the ones having the medical issues. As frequently happens, this change of perspective gave rise to some new insights as well as re-enforcing some old ones. Here are things I am glad those caring for us did (or wish people did):
First, ASK. Ask what would be helpful. Ask how they would like the care to be given. Ask if there are things that they would like to not happen (this might be as helpful as providing what they do need). Be sure to only ask the questions that you are willing or able to respond to. Don’t say: “whatever you need we will help with” and then be unwilling to take the dog out. In fact it might be helpful to give them several options to choose from: “could I bring you a meal, or care for you dogs, or take the kids for an evening, or mow your yard?” This can be a gift for both of you. For you it offers the things that you are willing to do. However you might consider give multiple things that they can choose from, make sure it is alright for them to say no, and work to think of things that they would find helpful. For the other person it can be helpful because they might not feel ok about asking for something until it is offered (i.e. not wanting to push for too much) and it also might give them some ideas when they can’t think of what to ask for or are forgetting some things that need to be taken care of.
Next, CONSIDER WHAT WOULD BE SUPPORTIVE.
Would a meal be helpful or would it just be something they would have to find room for in the frig or throw out? Would it be better to give restaurant gift cards so that they can go to where they like, when they would like to go? Bringing home cooked meals brings a very personal touch but it can also be an issue because of allergies, differences in food preferences, seasoning preference differences, etc. Also think about kids in what food you provide.
Are there pets to consider? If they don’t have someone to take care of their pets that can create stress and worry. Could you go over and take care of them or even take them to your home for a few days.
Are there chores that need doings? Does the trash need to be emptied inside or taken to the curb? Does the yard need care such as watering, mowing, or edging? Are there flowers that need to be watered or beds that need to be weeded? Do they have dishes needing washing? A house that needs cleaning? Groceries that need to be picked up? Again, be sure that you allow them to set boundaries. They may not feel comfortable with you in their house or doing certain things. Offer but don’t demand.
Third, FOLLOW THROUGH. If you agree to do something then do it and do it well. As scripture instructs: “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).
We were blessed by people who gave care and gave it in ways that were helpful. What a blessing that is.
July 9, 2013