So I know this does not sound like the typical content of my blog, but I want to take a minute to talk about how to bless other people who are in a crisis point in their lives. I’ve been thinking about this because my dad has spent the past couple of weeks in the ICU following a very serious accident. It has been a trying time, but also a time during which God has shown Himself to be clearly in control. One of the unexpected blessings of this time has been to see the ways in which other people have reached out to show love and concern to my family.
I’m not a person who has spent a lot of time around hospitals, and in the past I’ve often felt a little awkward about knowing what to say to people in times of crisis. I’ve been so impressed by some of the thoughtful ideas people have had to help us that I wanted to pass along a few of my favorites in case you find yourself needing to encourage someone else.
1. The “Coach Box” – The day after my dad’s accident, friends of my mom’s brought to the hospital a big red box that had been a gift box for a Coach brand purse. Inside they had packed what appeared to be a huge picnic – sandwiches, snacks, drinks, fruit, candy, etc. This box became our mobile canteen for the first couple of days, and was easy to restock and use again. We thought this idea was so brilliant that churches should have their own “Coach Box” ministries.
2. A night’s rest – Waiting for a loved one to heal is hard, and traveling to and from the hospital makes it harder. You come in early and leave late, eat, sleep and do it all over again. After a few nights of this, my brother-in-law called from Texas and said, “I’m too far away to help with much, but I can get you a good night’s sleep. Just give me the name of a nearby hotel and I’ll arrange a couple of night for you.” Initially, we thought about declining. “Do we really need it?” But accepting this help was one of the best decisions we made during the week. Other family friends also offered us this great gift, which has been deeply appreciated. Getting real rest while knowing you can be at the hospital in 5 minutes feels like a luxury.
3. Coffee breaks – It is hard to think about taking care of yourself when you are focused on the patient. Sometimes, however, a bottle of water, a cup of coffee, or just a little breather is what you need most. Shortly after we arrived at the hospital, one of my mother’s friends dropped off a dozen gift coupons for the hospital cafe. These were just the excuse we needed to take a moment away and refresh.
4. An extra pair of hands – Gifts during a crisis aren’t always about buying something. Sometimes the best give you can give is just to help someone be in two places at once. It was incredible to see how my parent’s friends and church family found small ways to minister to them by taking care of errands. People dropped things off at the bank or the post office, offered child care, and delivered meals. Someone cleaned my mom’s house, another family shoveled her driveway, and a relative took out her trash and made sure she had wood for her stove. One person dropped off a library book. All of these small kindnesses meant we could focus on our primary duty to my dad.
5. Balance the books – One of the most surprising and touching gifts my parents received was from a colleague of my dad’s. He and his son volunteered their days off and extra weekend days to keep my dad’s business going. As I blogged about previously, my dad is a small-town chiropractor, and without him, his office doesn’t fucntion. But these two men offered to see my dad’s patients in his own office to keep my dad’s practice going and to provide my parents income for the next few months. What an incredible gift of peace of mind! You may or may not be able to actually work for the sick person or his or her family, but maybe you could take vacation time to provide transportation, buy gas cards to make the travel easier, pick up a bill for them temporarily, or substitute for them in some of their responsibilities. Think about what worries that person might having in providing for their family or meeting their commitments and ask if any are worries you can remove from his or her plate.
My family and I are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in the past weeks, and we have learned a lot about how to be a blessing to others when they need it most.