Stop saying this when friends are in crisis…

Another random Facebook post. A friend asking for vague help, their circumstances not allowing them to share publicly whats really happening, but nevertheless, they fling a desperate cry out into the void.

Stop saying “How Can I help” say this instead.

A diagnosis. A crushing blow. A job loss.

Condolences and “prayers” come flooding in. Along this flood of well wishers, perhaps this phrase is more used than any other. And you need to stop using it.

“Let us know if there is anything we can do to help.”

Listen, when you are in crisis, and life is upside down, you don’t know what you need. You are simply trying to breathe. Until the moment of crisis passes, your body just goes into instinctual survival mode.

A number of years ago, my wife came down with an attack of pancreatitis. The diagnosis was missed two days prior in Dar es Salaam, and upon arrival in Kenya, we went to the emergency room. She was hospitalized.

At that moment, well wishes and prayers for her healing were all good. But I had an 18 year old intern from the states, a new born and a 4 year old. But I couldn’t think straight enough to formulate what I needed from the community around me.

When friends and loved ones are in crisis, stop saying “let me know.” You already know.When the ship is sinking, having crew members ask “how can I help” doesn’t help. In crisis, the captain needs crew members who “See a need, fill a need”

What do all humans require?

  1. Food prep. While someone is in crisis, they and their family still need to eat.
    1. Suggestion: Ask instead: What’s your favorite meal, favorite restaurant? What do the kids like to eat? From gift cards to home cooked meals, these are always needed!

      Listen, when you are in crisis, and life is upside down, you don’t know what you need.

  2. Childcare: If the friend is in crisis, the whole family is affected and if multiple children are involved, they get a huge emotional hit. My older son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when my youngest was 2 months old. The youngest struggles with deep anxiety. Could it be that the emotional trauma during his first months of life is connected? We don’t know.
  3. Companionship: At this level, you need to have more than a surface relationship. But there are times when you simply need to get in your car, get on the bus, get on a plane and go be.

Living in Tanzania, funerals were more part of my life. One beautiful lesson I learned from Tanzanian culture was that when someone dies, you don’t’ wait. You don’t ask. You GO. And you sit. That’s it. You offer small words if the grieving family needs. But generally you just sit. Give the gift of presence. Loneliness is tough.

  1. Bills. This is a bigger step, but very few people that I know are going to ask for help with their bills until they are in major crisis. So navigate this one with tact, but there are bills that you can take care of without having the ackward conversation. Gas in the car. Oil Changes. Is school upcoming? New shoes and clothes for the kids. New backpacks and school supplies.
  2. Lawncare and carcare. Taking care of the yard, the weeds, the snow blowing (for those in northern countries), the little things.
  3. Prayer. Everything throws the word around. But prayer is more than wishful thinking. It is more than desiring good, or “thoughts.” If you believe, then Prayer is engagement with the Divine Creator of the Universe who actually cares. Your prayer then should be written out, communicated clearly. Share scriptures (not the generic Jeremiah 31, but pray Psalms and great prayers of the ages for your loved ones. And then communicate that to them.

“Let me know what we can do” put the onus on the person already dealing ith too much. How about if we tried “let me do this for you…”

What are some other ideas? What do you do in your culture? Share you thoughts and feedback on our Facebook page..



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