It’s been 15 months since my husband was diagnosed with cancer. As word of his diagnosis spread to others, I’d get calls from friends that generally started with admissions of shock, then sympathy and promises of prayers. And almost every conversation ended with these words, “Please let me know if there is anything I can do.” They are words I have said myself so I know they were always offered in love, but man, after awhile those words exhausted me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I needed, it’s just that it was really hard for me to ask for help. The truth is that we were not in the “thick of things” treatment-wise at that point, so I was still perfectly able to take care of the everyday stuff of life despite the fact that I was a bit overwhelmed emotionally. I could still change the sheets, do the laundry, make meals, and buy Christmas presents (yep, it was Christmastime), but the truth is, I really didn’t WANT to do all those things. Although to be totally honest, other than the gift-buying, I never REALLY want to do all those things. My friend told me I should make a list of the top ten things that needed to be done so that when someone offered I could just hand them the list. It was a good idea; I just never did it because the list would change daily and I didn’t have the energy to keep adjusting it.
But there were a few friends who just did things. They didn’t ask; they just saw what needed to be done and did it. I will never forget the first time it snowed that winter. I was outside shoveling the snow (one thing I loathe doing) and our neighbor, who was also outside, came over and said, “I’ve got this Nancy, you go back inside.” I could barely thank him through the tears. And he didn’t just come once. He came EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. it snowed ALL. WINTER. LONG. And snow it did! We had nearly 70” of snow last winter, starting in November and lasting through April. But our neighbor never missed a day. His kindness still overwhelms me.
I had another friend who sent me an email every day with a Bible verse. I’m sure it didn’t take her more than a couple of minutes but still I was blessed each day with a reminder of God’s unfailing love. I have since passed this “gift” onto others and have been told how much it blesses them, too. Such a simple little thing.
Other friends sent cards, brought meals, helped wrap Christmas gifts, or would regularly find us at church so they could pray for us. It really doesn’t take much to bless someone who is going through a hard time.
The other day, I brought two single-serving pouches of soup to a friend whose husband is in a long-term care facility. It has to be overwhelming to prepare meals for only one person day in and day out. I was making the soup anyway, so other than taking the Ziplocs out of the drawer and labeling them, it didn’t really take any extra time at all. But the tears that welled up in her eyes when I showed up at her door told me that my one little gesture made a huge impact on her day.
Maybe you’re not into making soup or shoveling driveways, but what little thing can you do that would make a difference in someone’s day? How can you be the hands and feet of Jesus to them? Need some ideas? I happen to have a few:
Call up your friend and tell her you’re coming over to get her sheets. Take them home, wash them, and put them back on the beds when you return them to your friend’s house.
If you’re going to the grocery store or pharmacy, call your friend to see if there is anything she needs and offer to pick it up for her. Don’t worry, she’ll be happy to pay for whatever you purchase.
Mow the lawn.
If she has kids, offer to take them for a few hours so she can rest or have a few minutes to run errands unhindered.
If it’s Christmastime, offer to put up her tree, help her decorate the house, or wrap presents. Go back and help her take it all down, too.
If your friend is sitting with her spouse in the hospital, call her to see if she can take a break for coffee or lunch. She’ll appreciate the diversion.
Basically, think of the things you have to do every day to keep your household running and offer to do that for your friend. It doesn’t have to be big.
Whatever you do, your small gift of kindness will make a HUGE difference in someone’s day. And if we all do small things with great love, the world will be a little bit better.
Nancy loves to laugh and considers laughter a critical part of human survival. If you were to ask, most days she would say her glass is half full but when it starts reaching the half-empty level, she reaches for a funny book or movie knowing that indeed “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Nancy has three married sons and five grandchildren. To read more from Nancy find her at www.nancyholte.com.