When I see a family facing the challenges that medical struggles bring, my first instinct is to wish that I could fix it. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who was sharing about a medical difficulty they were facing, and you had that awkward feeling that you wish you could help, but you weren’t sure how? Maybe you’re on the other side, and you are looking at your circumstances and don’t even know where to begin in asking for support.
Having been on both sides of this dilemma, we know how discouraging that helpless feeling can be. Fortunately, we’ve picked up a few ideas both from personal experience and from watching friends and family that know how to love others amazingly well. Obviously there are some things we can’t fix, but there are some very practical ways to lend a hand and ease the burden.
Idea #1: Take Care of The Family Vehicle
I had to put this one first with my love of cars. This may seem like a daunting proposition, but who wants to worry about car maintenance while you’re fighting for hope for your family? Oil changes, filling up the gas tank, or rotating tires are quick ways to take care of a few things on what’s probably a very long to-do list.
So, what do you do when someone needs more serious repairs, or you are tight on funds? Many churches have volunteer “car care” ministries that will handle maintenance and minor to moderate repairs for people in need.
Idea #2: Take Care of a Meal (or a Few)
- Ask what kind of food is preferred.
- Make sure you ask about food allergies or special diets. (We went through a 6-food elimination diet that was pretty intense at one point.)
- Ask what time the family normally eats.
- Ask if fresh meals or frozen meals that can be used at a later date would be more helpful.
If you have a network of friends and/or family available to help, you can coordinate a series of meals. This can be a huge relief if you are juggling doctor appointments or are coming home after time at the hospital. A word of advice: there are some great tools for coordinating meals like Take Them a Meal and Meal Train that are a ton easier than a super long email string.
Not a chef? Did you know that you can send a pre-prepared meal instead of flowers?
Idea #3: Give the Parents a Date Night
Discouragement, crazy schedules, lack of sleep, and the general stress of dealing with medical challenges can take its toll on a marriage. Why not offer to watch the kids or “gift” a babysitter for a night out for the parents? Communication, time to laugh, and a little room to breathe may be just the help that a couple needs, and the kids will benefit, too.
Idea #4: Give the Gift of Cleaning!
Do you enjoy cleaning? We actually know some people that love to clean! If you can get a few people together, you can clean a house or apartment for a family in need in no time. You might also be able to pair this with the date night in idea #4, if you’re sneaky.
Idea #5: Help with Yard Work
I enjoy yard work. In some ways, it’s helpful in relieving stress, but when the intensity ramps up, yard work can be a burden. Yard help doesn’t have to be elaborate. If your neighbor needs help, maybe you can “accidentally mow too far past the property line” or hire a teenager looking to make some extra spending money. If there is more serious work to be done, getting a few people together to help can make a big project go quickly. In either case, leaving behind a small pot with flowers or herbs could be a memorable treat and encouragement.
Idea #6: Write an Encouraging Card
Sometimes you just need to know you aren’t alone. The idea of writing a card can be intimidating. What do you write if you’ve never been in that situation before or can’t relate? How do you write something that isn’t “cheesy?” Our best advice is: be yourself. A card can be short, funny or serious, but the fact that you took a few minutes to let someone know you’re thinking about them can mean the world at the right time.
Idea #7: Set Reminders on Your Phone
Life is busy, but we can make technology work for us when it comes to encouraging someone facing challenging times. The thing about medical difficulty is that there are typically lots of doctor appointments, tests, procedures, etc. If someone is sharing their situation with you, don’t be afraid to ask when a certain procedure or appointment is happening. Try setting a reminder on your phone to call or even send a quick, “thinking about you, hope the ____ goes well” text message.
I have learned that lending a helping hand is easier than I often think, doesn’t require extra money, and is incredibly rewarding. I’ve also had to learn that it’s okay to ask for help (that’s a tough one sometimes). In either situation, we are meant to live in community and to support each other in times of need. We hope this gets your creative juices flowing!
In the comments:
What ideas do you have for practically helping out? Has anyone done something for you that was particularly helpful or blew you away?