This post is from a blog that I sometimes read, “Keeper of the Home” (if I knew how to link to her site, I would!) Her husband went through cancer a few years ago and she wrote this post shortly there after.  I feel like MY view of ‘helping people’ changed after Jason went through his two week hospital stay back in 2006.  It was just a weird time and you just don’t understand what people are going through until you go through something similar yourself.  One thing I used to say to people  was “Let me know if you need anything” to people who were hurting/sick/overwhelmed and what I learned through our personal journey through health issues is that is not the most helpful thing to say.  I mean really, can I call you when I’m crying and I can’t cook dinner or get the laundry done?  I know people say with with a meaningful heart (I did for sure!), but it is a vague statement that a lot of times leaves people confused more than feeling like they would have help if they needed it.  Anyway, since a few years ago, I have tried saying more specifically what I could do help people. Most of the time it has been laundry, meals or childcare.  Offering “Can I take your kids for an hr or two”- then people can just say yes or no and not have to come up with something for you two help with.  I read this post that she wrote and was nodding my head the entire way though.  Awesome stuff.

“I shared yesterday about the beautiful design of the body of Christ, as a place where those in need can find support and care, and those who are able can serve and bless others. I think that it may be helpful to share from our own experience what was particularly meaningful and helpful to us during our recent season of need.

Here are some of the ways that our family was served throughout the course of my husband’s battle with cancer. I share them with you to give you an idea of what was most helpful, and also to show you how simple and practical it can be! Those who did these things for us most likely did not even know how significant their actions were, or how much they would mean to me months down the road.

Provide childcare

For anyone with small children, the need for childcare can be immense. Although we generally try to avoid leaving our children with other people most of the time, this was a season when we could not avoid it. Without church and family members offering a safe, comforting place for our daughter (and very occasionally, our young son), we would have either had to fork out large amounts of money for childcare (which we certainly did not have), or I could not have accompanied my husband when he most needed me.

One older teenage girl in our church came to watch Abbie for an entire day once while we went to a training seminar, Ryan’s mother came up almost every chemo weekend to watch the children and bring the baby to me to nurse while we stayed at the hospital, one family consistently offered to watch Abbie during Ryan’s surgeries or when his family was not available for chemo treatments, and our sister and brother-in-law came to spend the night when we had to go to the ER.

Provide meals

It is not necessary to wait for a request to come before you bring a meal. If you know that a family or individual is in a difficult season, I cannot think of a time when a meal would not be appreciated. Our church provided us with meals for two weeks after the birth of our baby, several friends came and dropped off bags of groceries or simple foods such as cut fruit, yogurt and granola, and we were often invited over to a home or out to a restaurant for meals.

It is difficult to prepare food for a family day in and day out when you are mentally and emotionally distracted and exhausted. So many times, those meals were such an incredible relief to me.

Provide house cleaning

At one point, shortly after the birth of our baby, a long time friend took me out for coffee and asked me what was the thing that I found myself most unable to do. I thought only for a second and responded that I simply could not keep up with the housework in the midst of all the appointments, caring for my husband, the mountains of laundry that comes with a newborn and toddler, and just being so tired all the time.

Less than a week later, she called and told me that starting that weekend, I would have 2 hours of housecleaning every Saturday, until Ryan finished his treatments. She arranged and paid for a single mom (who needed the work) to come in and do the deep cleaning each week so that I could focus on caring for my family. Do I even have to tell you what a relief and a blessing that was to me? Tears come to my eyes even now as I remember my gratefulness that someone would do that for us.

As well, the week after our baby was born, the ladies in my caregroup chose to use our regular ladies night as an opportunity to bless me and do a thorough clean of my house- with about 7 women working, it was spic and span in no time! Later in the summer, we ended up receiving the opportunity to move into a wonderful house, but unfortunately at a time when we had no energy to do so. Our church helped immensely, with caregroups coming over to clean and pack, many men coming to help us paint and do repairs in the new house, and provided the most effective troupe of movers we have ever had!

Provide an opportunity for rest

Sometimes, we simply needed someone to give us permission to rest, particularly me. I remember my sister-in-law coming over simply to play with my daughter and allowing me to nap or rest while my baby napped. One friend graciously allowed me to just come over with my kids, leave them with her, and go into her guest room and sleep!

I remember one specific instance when I was utterly exhausted from having dropped off my daughter at  a friend’s, then taken my husband to a downtown hospital (we live an hour or more from downtown), where I sat in a waiting room and cared for our 3 week old while he had a day surgery, before driving all the way back to our friend’s to get our daughter, in order to go home and cook dinner. I was practically falling asleep at the wheel on my way to their house, and when they saw me, they all but ordered me to go and sleep in their daughter’s bedroom. After a short nap, I awoke and was told I hadn’t slept long enough, my children were fine, and dinner was cooking and that I was to return to bed! I argued but it was no good- so back to bed I went for another hour, only to awake feeling refreshed, to the smell of spaghetti and garlic bread. May I just say that that is true friendship?

Provide an opportunity to share and discuss

Sometimes we didn’t have any particular physical need, but rather just needed someone to share our lives with. Those who were willing to speak openly with us about the cancer and what we were going through were so dear to our hearts. The reality is that whatever someone is facing is very real to them. It does not go away. It cannot be brushed aside. It is a part of everyday life, and it is ok to talk about it!

Sensitivity and discernment is needed, of course, because not everyone is built the same way emotionally. Some prefer to keep details to themselves, although they appreciate statements of care, concern, prayer, etc. These more private people may be blessed by a simple call asking how they are doing, or how you can pray for them. They may be blessed to receive a card, stating that you love them, are praying for them, share in their grief, are thankful to God for them.

For those who are more open, such as my husband and I, we felt so relieved each time we discovered friends and family that were willing to really go there with us. Who could talk about the cancer in something other than hushed tones, and who could even laugh about it with us. We found it necessary to find humor in our situation, and to not take ourselves too seriously.

We thoroughly appreciated those who felt comfortable enough with us to talk about our lives, matter of factly, and then when we were tired of talking about it, move on and just talk about something else. We also appreciated being treated as normal, and enjoyed having rare times when we didn’t talk about it at all, but instead just talked about the other aspects of life, or watched a funny movie, or went to the beach to fly kites.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. It is simply one woman’s expression of what blessed and served her and her family in the midst of hardship. I hope that it encourages you to look around and consider how God may desire to use you in the lives of those around you.”