Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Helping

Today I've been thinking a lot of rambling disconnected thoughts about friendship, what makes a good friend and what ways do true friends support each other that actually help.

Here's what I mean: a friend of mine had a baby several years ago, and like her other friends, I dropped off a meal during the initial weeks of craziness. What did I bring? Baked ziti. It sounded fabulous at the time (heck, it is fabulous), but later I realized (mostly because this person told me years later) that everyone brings pasta to new parents. It's easy to make, transport, reheat, etc, so it's the go-to dish for everyone providing a meal to a friend. But as much as one appreciates the thoughtfulness and generosity of friends providing food and saving new parents from cooking tasks, this poor couple ate pasta for probably 14 days straight. What would've been really welcomed, my friend said and I fully concur, is offers to clean the house, run errands etc. Ah-ha!

Another friend's father was terminally ill several years ago, and she spent his final months caring for him. After he passed, friends would say "You must be relieved it's over" or "You must feel better that he's not suffering any longer." This was maddening to her: no I'm not relieved or feeling better because this whole thing frickin' sucks! People meant well, but these sentiments weren't actually helpful to her.

I suppose it's a very individual thing, but what I want to know is what do people actually need when they're in trouble. I'm told specific offers are helpful, rather than the generic "call me if you need anything." And from personal experience it's helpful to hear "I wish I knew what to say, but I'm just at a loss for words" rather than nothing at all. Anyway, a willing ear and a run to the store go a long way.

2 comments:

miss d said...

Very true, very true. I agree with specifics and the admittance of not knowing really what to say. Sometimes a silent hug can even go a long way. Um, now that I said "silent hug" it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Who wants a crazy loud hug? Er, you know what I mean though, don't you?

janie said...

My mom's advise over the years for what it's worth: No matter how much you want to fix it for them, it's probably not possible.
They might not be looking for help, but call to check on them anyway.
They won't ask for help if they don't know that you're there.
Stop by one day when you're 'in the neighborhood.'
Trying to think of the perfect gesture might keep you from acting naturally from your naturally kind instincts.
Trust yourself. You'll know what to do when the time comes.