“I’ll Bring a Casserole”

Really want to help? Tell people what you’re doing, don’t ask them.

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Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash

New babies, chemotherapy treatments, deaths in the family — these things all bring about stress. The demands of life, coupled with major life events can send a family reeling.

The emotional and physical toll that giving birth or navigating illness or death has can be suffocating. When this happens, families often fly on auto-pilot. They operate in survival mode until the most demanding times are over.

Lots of well-meaning people call, text, or post on social media to share their well-wishes. Often, these are accompanied by “let me know if you need anything” as the closing remark. I’ve learned over time that this is actually not very helpful.

People who are in the midst of a life-changing situation don’t have the capacity or wherewithal to remember who said: “let me know what you need”. They’re trying to live their new realities. A kind offer isn’t useful if it’s too vague.

The better response to a new mom, someone who is ill, or someone who’s buried a loved one is more direct. Tell them how you’d like to help. Just ask them when you can do it.

“I’ll come sit with the baby for a couple of hours so you can get a shower and rest. Is tomorrow okay?”

“I’ll make a casserole you can heat up and eat when you like. What day do you need a meal?”

“I’ll take your daughter to her softball game and stay to watch her play. When is it?”

“I’ll do a few loads of wash and order us a pizza. When can I come help?”

“I’ll have Chinese food delivered so you don’t have to worry about dinner. How’s Tuesday?”

Photo by Frank Zhang on Unsplash

By being direct with an offer, we take the pressure off people who are already overwhelmed. The only thing we need is for them to say when would be good. No fuss, no muss.

For a long time, I felt like I was intruding to call or offer to do something for someone going through a hard time. I came to realize that some of the greatest help I’ve ever had was from people who told me what they were doing and just did it. I didn’t have to ask. I didn’t have to think.

A friend of mine recently experienced a horribly difficult situation. Her father is dying of cancer and her mother fell and broke her hip, requiring surgery and then rehab. She was running back and forth from her mom to her dad and had to arrange for someone to be with her dad while she wasn’t there. On top of this, she’s not a cook.

She posted an update on Facebook and I simply commented that I wanted to bring a meal that weekend. I just needed her to tell me when. This was little trouble for me but I knew it would help her a lot since she was so busy.

When I dropped the meal off to her, she told me she appreciated that I just took charge and said I was going to do it. She was just too overwhelmed to contact people for anything with all the other running around she was doing.

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Photo by Sana Saidi on Unsplash

Taking charge of being helpful will make it easier for the person in need. Who can you bless today? Decide what you can do and ask when you can do it. It will be well-appreciated.

Thank you for reading! I’m Tracy Gerhardt-Cooper, and I invite you to follow me if you’d like to read more real talk about real life. Please follow my publication Middle Ground also for midlife musings. Let’s do life on purpose.

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