I had always thought I was a helpful and giving person. That is until God saw it to put me on the OTHER end. The needing and receiving end.
As I have mentioned before, the week before Thanksgiving, my husband was laid off. After full dedication to this company for 15 years, they needed to downsize and he was one of the ones to be let go. And I know now what the needs of those I thought I was helping was.
So if you really want to know what helps, here is my top list of how to help.
- Prayer. Don’t just pray for them. Don’t just say once that you are praying for them. But every time you pray for them, send them a little text message letting them know. There are days where this is the number one thing that gets me through the day.
- Gift cards. A lot of people like to bring meals, but space in the fridge and freezer can run out quickly. A gift card is great because I can guarantee you that the family is eating through their pantry. Being able to restock and buy things as needed (some meat to go with the pasta and sauce you have in the pantry is priceless). But most grocery stores now have a gas station too, so the gift card can be used on gas to get from interview to interview.
- Cash. While meals and gift cards are great, bills still need to be paid. The mortgage, the electric bill, the trash, the phone bill (need to be able to answer for interviews). All can be paid with cash.
- Household items. A basket filled filled toilet paper, paper towels, dishwashing soap, laundry detergent … life goes on and these items need to be replaced. Honestly, I would not even mind if these items were open already (like a roll or two from the pack you just bought your family)
- Offer to help. The first thing we realized was we need to sell some items to make some money. A friend came over and helped organize everything that had been thrown into the living room for the sale. If she had not come over, I honestly don’t know what I would have done! And with having to sell the house, she has also offered to come and help us clean and pack when that time comes. (My husband mentioned things like mowing the lawn and home care are helpful too, especially when he is down because of the stress.)
- Call them. They won’t want to call you because they feel like a burden and a downer. This is especially important around the holidays. I felt so alone over Christmas because who wants to be THAT person who brings everyone’s Christmas joy down with their sorrows? And yet I was struggling the most at that time because of lack of provisions as the mom of the house for the holiday season.
- Know when to give advice and when to be quiet. I have learned that not everyone thinks like I do, and everyone does things differently. Sometimes advice on what to do or not do is not very helpful because it is not where the other person is. But advice on remembering to read Scripture and trust is ok, but that too can also be overdone. Pray. Sometimes they want and need to hear it, but sometimes it is best left in prayer.
- Don’t apologize! Finances are tight for everyone, and not everyone can give money or gift cards. And don’t think your offer or gift is too small! A ziplock baggie of detergent to get my laundry done is just as appreciated as the person who gives cash. It means you care.
Hopefully you can see some ideas above on how to help without money (calling, praying, giving a roll of toilet paper or making an extra meal). I wish I had known that a person needs more than just cash during such a time as this. (Edited to add: thee are some great comments below – be sure to read them!)