“Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” These words are often our thoughtful gesture toward a friend or acquaintance who we know is going through some kind of difficulty. The problem is that invitation can often feel like yet another “to do” to a person under duress. While we all need to be responsible for ourselves, including asking for help when we need it, we all also need to be graced by the potent generosity of our friends at time – friends who will assert their kindness in our direction when we haven’t asked for it.
I’m not talking about showing up at someone’s home unannounced early one morning proclaiming you’re going to do their laundry. Intrusiveness, no matter how well-intentioned, is never really appreciated. I am talking about simple actions that show you care. Perhaps you know someone who has recently lost a loved one, is battling a chronic illness, going through a break-up, had a miscarriage, or lost their job. Instead of waiting for them to call you for help, why not initiate a not-so-random act of kindness. Here are some suggestions for making life easier for someone you care about:
1. Drop off a prepared meal: We’ve all got to eat, and, when stressed, good eating habits easily fly out the window. Receiving a nutritious, ready-to-eat meal in dishware that doesn’t need to be returned will be welcomed by just about anybody, whether they are in distress or not.
2. A basketful of goodies: The delight of receiving an unexpected basket of yummy delights is right up there with ”brown paper packages tied up with strings.” Even if you don’t know someone’s favorites, if you create a modest assortment of quality items like some good bread, a special jam, seasonal fruit, a local cheese, and a happy faced sunflower, the recipient is bound to feel the love.
3. Gift certificate to a local café: OK, this is the last food-related suggestion. I’m big on comfort through food because I know that we all have to eat and that cooking, even for those who love to do it, can become burdensome when you’re distressed. A simple gift certificate – doesn’t have to be expensive – to a favorite spot in town will take care of one breakfast, lunch or mid-day pick-me-up thanks to you.
4. Offer playdates: No matter what we’re going through, most parents try to maintain as much normalcy as possible for their kids. If you have similarly aged children as your friend, invite them over for a playdate, or even a standing playdate if that works for your family. Knowing that their kids are safe and happy, while having a window to tend to self or personal business is a priceless gift most folks would appreciate.
5. Plan a date: Invite your friend out for a night of R&R – go to the movies, a concert, dinner, drinks. It’s common for people to isolate when going through grief or a hard time. If they have kids, make arrangements for them to hang out with your kids and mate/mom/sitter. Make it easy for them to have a night out.
6. Send a card: I love the word “encourage” – to inspire, to hearten (coeur) someone else with words of comfort, faith, hope and confidence in their ability to rebound. When going through difficulty, few of us want pity or advice. We simply want to be allowed to be where we are, know that we’re loved, and reminded that life is still good. While handwritten, personal cards are great, there are plenty of cards out on the market that can say just the right thing for you if you look in a good card or ecard shop.
Be bold in your kindness. No invitation necessary. Just do it!