There’s so many of us that want to be of assistance to people, because we love people. But sometimes we don’t know where to start and where to end. This article looks at ways in which we can truly help someone.
I have had two stand out times in my life where I’ve felt truly helped by someone. I have the luxury of many lovely people in my life, but these two times stood out. They stood out because these friends met me where I was at, in my physical and emotional mess and practically loved, listened and laughed.
The first time I felt truly helped was in the week after my mother died and my friend asked me an important question. It was not a vague and open ended promise of, “If you need anything you can call me day or night”. It was simply a question of “What do you need?”. Once my friend asked me that question the floodgate of emotions flowed out, with my first response being, “I need my mum”. After she listened compassionately, she asked again, “What do you need, that I can provide?”. A need that had not been met, that had been stupidly taking up space in my mind was my pile of dishes. “I need my dishes washed”. And with that my friend told me when she was available and confirmed when any of those times would suit me best. She told me she would be there at my house to clean my dishes. The next day she came over with another dear friend who also came to clean. They sat me down and let me put my feet up. I sat on the couch in our open planned room, while I watched my friend clean my dishes. And the cherry on the top was that she asked me beautiful questions surrounding things of my mum, who I was already dearly missing at that stage. The other dear friend cleaned my bathroom (and shower) with such unspoken, yet apparent grace.
Another time I felt overwhelmed and in need was more recently when I had to abide by the post emergency c-section ‘6 week rule’. I was not to lift anything heavier than my baby or drive for the six weeks postpartum. I was starting to get cabin fever after three and a half weeks at home as a new mum. It was then that my friends intervened and whisked me away. They drove my car, ensuring that my three week old daughter could come in the car seat. They took me to a lovely little cafe. When they flagged the idea that it might be good for me to get out of the house, I replied “as long as we go somewhere cheap and nasty”. This was because funds were tight and we could no longer afford to live the life of luxury. My friend said that this would not do (after she checked that the reason I wanted to go somewhere cheap was due to financial pressure) and said she would shout me. My other friend drove my car safely so that I felt comfortable. They piled in with me in the car for my first trip since coming home from the hospital. As we pushed the pram towards the cafe I started having doubts, being my first expedition out. They gently yet firmly reassured me that all was well.
These two events will always remain in my memory as expressions of love in the form of true helping. Through these beautiful acts of kindness I learnt a lot about the art of truly helping. I learnt:
If you want to help, ask what the person needs. Evaluate if you can help in this way and be open about your abilities and limitations.
Invite conversation with the dear one you are helping around things they want to talk about. If you’re not sure, simply ask directly what they want to discuss with you.
Listen, not just in that moment, but try to remember who that person is from the culmination of previous times you’ve been together.
Get out of your comfort zone, so that they can be within theirs in their time of need.
You will likely lose your own money, time and energy if you are truly willing to help.
Be gentle and compassionate, but don’t tip toe, be upfront and lovingly brutal to remind that person of what they need to hear. Talk like you always talked to your friend.
And that is my final point. If you truly want to help someone, bear in mind your friendship status. Because if they are not already a dear friend, you owe it to them to be a good friend to them in the future. We all go through seasons with friendships (which is a story for another article), but when it’s cold outside for someone, provide a warmth that will be welcomed and treasured for years to come.
Elizabeth is a Mum to Grace, step-mum to Will, wife to Ricky. She is very changeable. Sometimes she'll identify herself as a social worker, other times as a writer or even as a Christian. She loves her town of Dubbo, New South Wales. Elizabeth studied a Bachelor of Social Work at Charles Sturt University.