A mom friend of mine wrote this in her Facebook status the other day:
Dear ones, my family is going through a difficult time while P’s cochlear implants are not working. She feels cut off from the world and very stressed. J and I are hurting for her while supporting her emotionally, working on solving the problems this causes for her schooling and getting her to numerous appointments. The situation could take more than a month to be resolved and we need the help of our community.
The biggest thing you can do, in addition to keeping us in your thoughts and prayers, is simply to bring us meals. This takes a big responsibility off my shoulders and helps us all feel nourished and supported.
Frozen meals are great, meals ready to throw in the slow-cooker are awesome, fresh homemade food is welcome and gift cards will help tremendously as well.
Thank you so much for helping us through these challenges.
Essentially, this mom felt her ship going down and asked for a lifeline. She told me it took some strong encouragement from a friend to share that post, as it’s not in her nature to ask for help.
Last I saw, more than twenty friends had responded with words of encouragement as well as offers to bring meals. But the replies that struck me the most were the ones that said the same thing I felt when I read the post—OH MY GOSH, THANK YOU FOR ASKING. Thank you for telling us exactly what you need, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to help. What a brave and beautiful thing to do.
Seriously, so many of us don’t ask for help because we are afraid, or embarrassed, or don’t want to burden anyone. We don’t want to feel vulnerable or put it out there that life is more than we can handle alone at the moment. We worry about being seen as weak or incapable or some such silliness.
But community is about being there for one another. Most people really do want to help others. The problem isn’t a lack of desire or will to help—the problem is we don’t always know how we can really help. I have some very thoughtful friends who always ask directly, “What do you need right now? What can I do?” But some of us don’t ask those questions because we worry about prying or overstepping. Or we worry about implying weakness or incapability or some such silliness.
Goodness, we have so many worries that keep us apart, don’t we?
There are some blessed souls among us who naturally excel at the whole helping thing. You know, the ones who always seem to sense when someone is struggling and know just the right thing to do or say. Then there are the rest of us, who want to be helpful but don’t know where to start. For example, I’m not someone who would automatically think to make a meal for a friend going through a difficult time. (I barely remember to make meals for my own family every day—food just isn’t on my radar.) But if someone asks for that specifically, you bet I’d be happy to throw together a soup or a casserole. And I’d be so grateful to know exactly what I can do.
Asking for help from our community isn’t a burden—it’s a gift. When we are specific about what we need, it gives others an opportunity to be of service in a way that is truly helpful and meaningful.
Maybe you don’t need meals. Maybe you need help cleaning your house, doing yard work, or taking care of your kids. Maybe you need a coffee date with a friend. Maybe you’re going to lose your mind if you don’t get some alone time. Whatever you need, put it out there. I know it feels uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t. Asking for help isn’t asking for a handout. It’s reaching out to your community and giving them a chance to reach out to you.
We all hit stormy seas sometimes, so send out the S.O.S. when you need help. Be specific about what you need. Remember that you’re giving your friends and family a welcome opportunity to be of service, and also serving as an example to others who may be suffering in silence. Once you’re sailing on smoother waters, you can pay forward the generosity you’ve received by doing the same for others when their ship is teetering. That’s what community is all about.