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Helping Someone in Need

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

I have lived a fairly non-needy life. I have two wonderful parents getting ready to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I am blessed with two older brothers and their families to love and be loved by. I have grown up with a warm extended family. At barely 22 years of age, I married an amazing man who has loved me well for 18 years of marriage. I have been surrounded by a great group of friends in every season of my life. My church family here in St. Louis is an AMAZING cloud of witnesses loving the orphan, the oppressed and each other. I have never been wealthy (well, not by American standards but certainly by the world’s standards), but I have never been without food, clothing, housing, family support, etc. We were blessed with two healthy, smart, fun and kind biological children. Are you ready to say, “Shut up already with your perfect life?”

In the midst of my easy, perfect life we decided to wade into the world of foster care and adoption. We never intended to wade into the world of special needs parenting as well, but this beautiful 18 month old boy came into our lives and radically changed it forever. While walking through the last almost 6 years, I have known need greater than at any other time of my life. I’m still spoiled by a wonderful team of family members, friends, doctors, therapists and teachers. Our little man is fun, happy and developing at his own rate and we’re all thankful for him, but on many days I have been at my end in terms of what I can handle.

Here are a few things I have learned about helping others in need during my needy journey:

Don’t expect someone in need to be able to communicate what they need with you. In moments of crisis, those experiencing them don’t have time to think about what they need or to communicate it. This is especially true if the crisis is taking place in a hospital. Do not expect someone with a loved one in the hospital to be able to keep up with texts, phone calls or emails. Brainstorm what you think would be most helpful during this crazy time and fulfill that need. Some simple ideas that are often needed in a time of crisis include a meal, an offer to take the kids somewhere fun for the day, a trip to the grocery store, a simple note of encouragement, a small personal gift, a caffeine or chocolate source (OK not everyone needs this but many of us make our way through crisis fueled by caffeine and chocolate). Also, if you are able to supply help without asking what is needed, it certainly helps those of us who aren’t great about asking for or accepting help which brings me to my next point.

If you are in need, ask for and accept help! I personally stink at this. I think of a million reasons why the person offering help has other things to do and I talk them out of it. I’m learning to accept help more and remembering how much I benefit when I can help others. It’s a blessing for yourself and others to allow them to help.

Be careful with offering advice to those in need.  I was particularly sensitive to receiving unwanted advice when we were considering adopting our son. I sought the counsel of those I trusted, but unsolicited advice often rubbed me wrong. So, what did I need from others and how could I be more of a blessing to others in need during conversations? I was blessed with a dear friend who is a trained social worker who knew just what to say which often was simply allowing me to spew all of my thoughts and commenting, “I can see how you would feel that way. I think that is perfectly natural to feel that way. What you are going through is difficult.” She didn’t try to relate her own mess or try to fix my issues, she just listened and affirmed. I truly believe that if I wasn’t talking to her regularly throughout our fostering time, we may never have adopted our son.

Be careful about the questions you ask someone in need. Our reality TV – 24 hour news cycle – Internet research at your fingertips world has led many of us to feel like we need all of the details in every situation. When we were in the midst of fostering our son and at the same time discovering his disabilities were far greater than we initially thought, I didn’t want to deal with anyone questioning our very personal decision. That being said, I understand the sincere sentiment behind asking questions as I certainly want to know the details of whatever my friends are going through, but sometimes all of the details really aren’t needed or helpful. There are no perfect rules to follow here as one of my friends recently felt validated when someone asked her if she was second guessing her foster placement who has major medical needs. When wanting to ask someone a question about the crisis or need they are experiencing I find it helpful to first ask myself, “Will knowing the answer to this question help me help this person more or convey better my sincere desire to help or is it just my own curiosity?”

Finally, I am learning to expect and be prepared for those around me to experience need. In the blink of an eye, people’s lives change…accidents happen, people become ill, families say “yes” to fostering children who arrive at their doorstep within hours. In the midst of my busy life, I have become not so great about helping others and if it requires much thought or time, I find myself not loving others as well as I would like. I am finding it easier to meet the needs of others if I keep things on hand at home like an extra frozen meal, cards, small gifts, etc. This makes fulfilling a need or just simply saying “I’m thinking about you” much easier. On the flip side, I’ve also learned that you don’t have to have anything on hand to care for someone in need. A simple text, prayer, phone message or offer to care for someone’s kids for an afternoon or run an errand for them can speak volumes to a heart in need.


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