If you’re like me, when your friend is in need, you want to do something to help but you’re not sure what.
In 2017 I had spinal surgery that kept me home for about 9 weeks. The outpouring I received from friends, church groups and family left me feeling so grateful. And gave me some ideas for how to pay it forward.
There are plenty of ways to help and not all involve cooking! Whether someone recovering is from surgery, you have an elderly relative or know someone who is going through cancer treatment; here are 10 ways to help:
1. Meals are the obvious – But you don’t have to cook an entire meal. A friend organizing meals for us suggested that people make a little more food than they normally would for their family and put the extra in a container for my husband and me. They were the perfect size and were stored in the freezer and used as needed.
2. Offer a parking spot – A good friend told me this stood out as one of the simplest and kindest things that someone could offer when her mom had cancer. My friend’s mom lived on a small street in Philly with few driveways, packed on both sides with cars. A neighbor offered to keep their driveway clear so when my friend’s mother came home from appointments, there was a parking spot for her.
3. Offer light housekeeping – Do a load of laundry, change the sheets, sweep the floor, damp mop. After my surgery, I couldn’t bend, twist or lift. That pretty much eliminates most housework. My husband is a paraplegic who could do some of these things but he was also trying to help me out by heating up meals or getting me a cup of tea.
When my daughter and her husband came over, she threw in a load of laundry; he swept and damp mopped the floor. As friends came over for a visit, we would occasionally ask them to take out the trash or recycling bags.
4. Offer to drive to appointments – I wasn’t allowed to drive for several weeks following my surgery. Even when I got the all-clear, I was still on medications that made me drowsy or made my thinking unclear. My friend picked me up and took me to my first doctor’s appointment, waited with me and drove me home. The energy it would have taken for me to do this myself would have left me too exhausted to drive home!
5. Offer to pick up groceries – Several people checked in to ask if we needed anything when they went to the grocery store. I usually kept my list to the basics – bread, milk, fruit. It was such a relief that I didn’t have to worry about what happened when we ran out of bread.
6. Pick up take-out food– In the middle of my recovery, my husband turned 70. What a wonderful gift when friends offered to bring us take-out and then sat with us to enjoy it! Another friend stopped by after work with Greek food. Such a treat plus we had leftovers! No time to stop? Send a gift card for Chinese or pizza delivery.
7. Pray – Never underestimate the power of prayer. When you are too far to visit, too tied up with your own obligations but want to do something, send up a daily prayer and let your friend know that you are thinking about them. I felt so supported spiritually and when people told me they were praying for me, I said, “Thank you! I feel lifted by your prayers!”
8. Send a text, email or card – One friend in particular texted us every few days to see how we were doing. Others sent thoughtful cards which buoyed our spirits. Some people followed up by email. I was always delighted and touched when someone reached out, no matter what form it took. It helped to know we were being thought of even though we were out of the circuit.
9. Bring flowers – Or send them. Another obvious one but usually reserved for births and deaths. We had a steady stream of flowers gracing our countertop, from deliveries right after I came home from the hospital to a bouquet when friends visited. Bringing the garden indoors brightened our world.
10. Offer to be back-up – We had one friend who said, “I’m just down the road. Call me anytime if you need anything.” Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Angela Di Cicco