We’ve all said it or heard it said when we hear of a friend going through a hard time:
“Let me know if I can do anything!”
People say it with the very best of intentions, but lately, I’ve been wondering if it may be better to abandon the phrase in favor of another approach…
When my husband and I experienced a miscarriage between our two children, our friends lovingly dropped off the following things on our doorstep: My Starbucks order (a half-caff vanilla latte). Meals. Fresh flowers. Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet and a bar of the GOOD chocolate. Some of my favorite goodies from the newly opened Trader Joe’s.
I so appreciated it.
While it was always wonderful to be asked if I needed anything (and know someone is thinking of you enough to ask), someone just doing something without asking, spoke volumes.
What I really needed was just to know that someone was there and cared deeply enough to act. The truth is, we didn’t need a meal, or a Starbucks, or chocolate (though in many circumstances, things like meals are absolute essentials). But when the meals and the coffee found their way to our doorstep, they were saying “I love you” and “I’m sorry,” and spoke to our grief when words just failed everyone.
As per usual, our friends have taught us so much about how to treat others during a difficult time. Sometimes you just don’t know how to react or treat a good friend going through something hard until you’ve been the recipient of the grace and love of dear friends.
From now on, I’m a total advocate of the “drive by, drop off” when friends are in need.
Food, books, fresh flowers, you name it. Just drop it off on their doorstep with a simple card and walk away. The “I’m thinking of you” presents mean more than you know. More specific requests can come later and the fact that you cared enough to do a drive by, drop off makes it easy for your friend to ask you for something later, because they know you mean it.
For very close friends, I also find that it’s helpful to assume that I’m helping in some way instead of asking what I can do. Friends going through a hard time or stressful season might not know what they need exactly, or they may feel funny asking for something out of the blue. For example, telling someone “I would love to watch your kids so you can _____ (go to the doctor, visit your dad in the hospital, get out for a walk, etc.). Can I do that tomorrow, or is another day better?” is so much more relieving for your friend than waiting from them to reach out. We should put the burden of asking to help on us, rather than the person in crisis, so they can focus on doing what they need to do to heal.
As I go on with my life and friendships, I want to use “can I do anything?” less and move toward just doing something as a first step.