Helping Others in Crisis Mode
"Crisis Mode"....you know what I'm talking about.
-The family in your church just had to call in hospice for their elderly parent.
-Your mom friend was just put on bed rest.
-The couple who just had a baby isn't at home enjoying those first days of newborn bliss. Instead, they're staring into an isolette for hours at a time, wondering if today their baby can even tolerate being touched.
As a pastor's wife and a woman who has experienced "crisis mode" many times during the years, I just want to share my heart on this matter. And through my experiences, as well as what I've experienced in trying to best help others, I believe it's something that we all could stand to be challenged with.
You see, I have been that mom on bed rest. Three times actually. I've been that mom with a child in the NICU...twice. Our oldest daughter has had three open heart surgeries along with three other catheterization procedures. I've learned a lot during those times of crisis.
The Bible commands us to "love one another" and "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Helping each other anytime we can, but especially during difficult times is one of the biggest ways we live the Gospel and show the love of Christ.
But can I share with you what I have heard way too often that makes me cringe? And I've even been guilty of saying it myself.
It's this phrase: "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help."
It sounds good. Right? I mean, you are giving them the freedom to call on you when they need something....anything!
But I'm going to share with you a little secret that I think most people don't understand.
When in "Crisis Mode", people are overwhelmed. Calling someone with a plea for help just gives them one more thing to do in the midst of an overwhelming situation. People often feel extremely vulnerable during these times and this just heightens that sense. Also, many people are quite independent, and having to ask for outside help feels like "mooching." It's embarrassing, so they just don't.
Having to call and ask you for help does not help them. As well meaning as you are trying to be, it just. doesn't. help.
Also, when people are in crisis mode, many times they just cannot even identify their needs. Their focus is solely on the situation (i.e. child in the hospital, family member about to pass away, moving, etc.) and their basic needs and those of their home are swept to the side. They are having enough trouble processing what is going on and just can't think about all of those other minor details.
So when you give them the "Call me if you need anything" line and they give you a blank stare, please understand it's because they just can't express their needs to you.
I think sometimes we are guilty of giving our little "feel good line" because it makes US feel better. We've offered our help and done our little Christian duty, when in fact we are secretly hoping they don't call us.
But perhaps you do genuinely offer your help and sincerely hope you can be of any kind of assistance. Then let me try to help you.
Don't tell them to "Let you know if they need anything."
Because with a little thought and creativity, you could probably sit down and write a list of at least 5 different ways you could offer your help.
It goes something like this...say you have a friend who is moving this week. Maybe you have a bunch of little kids like me and you realize going over to help with packing really wouldn't be very practical.
So what can you do? What about a meal? I can tell you from experience that trying to keep up with feeding everyone can be one of the hardest things about moving! I mean, here you are trying to pack, but you still have to cook, so how in the world are you going to do that with your pots and pans still in use?
This is when you say, "Hey, can I bring you supper/lunch on ____________? I know you're busy packing and I didn't want you to have to worry about cooking too. What would be a good time for me to bring it over?"
And you know what? They'll look at you and smile and say, "Wow, thanks, that would be great!"
But I can almost guarantee that if you were a mom with a bunch of kids giving an offer of "Call me if you need anything" they would most likely say, "Oh, it's okay, I know you're busy. I think we can take care of it."
The book of James commands us to be believers that are "doers of the Word." We are to be men and women of action.
We need to find ways to help people, not just offer generic help "if they need anything." I realize that offering a "Call me if you need anything" would be appropriate in some situations or with very close friends who would really let you know, but that is not the norm.
People going through a rough time will almost always need assistance. Will they always accept? No. But when specific help is offered, rarely is it turned down.
Perhaps you could offer to mow a friend's grass who is spending all their time at the hospital with a loved one. Or maybe you could pay for your bedrest-ridden friend to have her home cleaned by a reputable cleaning company.
And honestly, I have found that one of the best ways you love people in "crisis mode" is with food. Seriously.
Whether it's bringing them a meal, or giving them gift cards to a restaurant, etc...providing food relieves the burden of worrying over a basic need and allows them to focus their attention on the current problem. People need to eat so the offer is almost always readily accepted. We often bring a basket of snacks to the hospital when we go visit people. (Hospital food is expensive and because of that, many family members don't eat enough or nourishing food.) So if you've racked your brain and can't think of anything else to do for someone, offer food. =)
Please know this isn't a rant of some kind, it's just simply been on my mind a lot since there are several people in our church that have been in "crisis mode" recently.
Look around you. Who do you know that's currently going through a rough time? Think about how you can help. Take the initiative and offer specific help, not just an open ended gesture that leaves the ball in their court. Be a doer of the Word and show the love of Christ by helping!
Have you been on the recipient end of some great help when you were going through a crisis? What was the best thing that was done, or could have been done for you? Any thoughts on all of this? I'd love to hear.
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