Recently a friend of mine posted something like this on Facebook:
“It has been a horrible week. The kids were sick, so we didn’t get to take our scheduled vacation. We lost our health insurance. I am waiting in the hospital while my husband has his appendix taken out. It has been stressful.”
Immediately the responses were numerous. And predictable.
“I’m so sorry.”
“I’m praying for you.”
“Let me know how I can help.”
I am begging you. If you are a friend of someone who is suddenly in crisis, STOP.
Those are not helpful responses. Those are narcissistic responses. Those are, “oh, social media, look at me, the caring friend” responses.
You want to help your friend in crisis? Here is how to help:
- Pray. Right now. Just pray. Silently. Out loud. It doesn’t matter. And here’s the kicker: don’t Facebook, blog, tweet, snapchat or Instagram about it. Just do it. Jesus hears you, I promise. If you feel prompted to let your friend know you prayed for her, let her know, but just her, and only if the Spirit really prompts you.
- Pray in one of these ways: call and pray over the phone with your friend (this is probably the most bold choice, unless you choose to drive to wherever your friend is and pray with her in person, which is also an excellent choice). Call and pray on her voice mail. Text her a prayer. Write a prayer note and email it to her, or drop her a handwritten prayer note in the mail.
- Give a very specific offer of help. “How can I help?” is actually NOT helpful, because your friend in crisis is probably too embarrassed or overwhelmed to ask for what she really needs. Call or text her and say, “Hey, I can bring over dinner tomorrow night. Is lasagna at 6:00 good?” Or, “I’m running to the grocery this afternoon about 2:00; are you good on milk, bread, and diapers? (band-aids, aspirin, sweet tea)”. Or, “Who is picking up your kids from soccer practice today?”. Or, “Hey, I have a few hours on Saturday. I will be over at 3:30 to help clean, do laundry, mow the lawn, sit with your mom so you can shower, hold your new baby while you nap, etc., etc.” Be very specific. Also? Be flexible. She may say that 3:30 doesn’t work, but 4:30 would be very helpful.
- Anonymously drop some cash or gift cards in the mail. Two years ago my husband was laid off unexpectedly at work for a few days, right at Christmastime. We received an anonymous gift of cash in the mail. Now, I am almost 100% certain I know who sent it, but it paid half of our mortgage and allowed us to leave our emergency fund in tact. It was a huge blessing, and an equally huge stress relief.
- Arrange a care calendar. If your friend is going to need long-term help, arrange for it. Set up an online system for meal delivery, lawn maintenance, house care, etc. There are all sorts of websites dedicated to this, and you can send the links via email and social media to your church members, mom groups, Bible studies, friends, relatives, neighbors, and whoever else might want to help.
- Finally, don’t be easily offended. My friend I mentioned above? I actually did call and offer to bring over lasagna, completely forgetting the entire family is lactose intolerant. We compromised on spaghetti with meat sauce :). Not a big deal to me, but some people might be offended that their offer of help isn’t met with a grateful falling to the floor and weeping. Be flexible and kind, and realize your friend needs you, you don’t need her at this particular moment.
I am fairly sensitive to this issues. Just about a year ago, my mother had a pretty serious brain hemorrhage. While she recovered, she lived with us for almost eight weeks. I think I cooked three times in those eight weeks? Friends from church just sort of swooped in and fed my family, took my son to the park, and made sure we were surviving. When I broke my foot a mere six months later, they did it again, adding chauffeuring me around this time, since I was unable to drive.
Perhaps you have a friend in crisis, possibly in a way you hadn’t even considered. If you do, think through this list. Maybe you can help her in a very concrete way, instead of offering a simple platitude on social media.