Tips for helping | Mark’s Remarks

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It is very difficult for anyone to understand another person’s plight. Do you agree? The old adage “You have to walk in someone else’s shoes” is so right.

I heard about a family going through a tough time the other day, and the folks talking about it proceeded to figure out things they could do.

That’s the good part, isn’t it? People want to help. There are plenty of people who want to do something when they find out there is a need. One has only to turn on the television when there is some type of crisis to see others helping out.

We really only relate to our own experiences. We are able to give first-hand advice when someone else goes through something similar. We learn so much in the face of our own struggles.

My daughter had brain cancer as an infant. After chemotherapy and surgeries, she was cancer free before she was 2. She’s had a few ups and downs since then and suffers from periodic seizures that are helped with medication.  But we will tell anyone she was miraculously healed by God and has been a cancer survivor for almost 15 years. 

That’s her story.  That’s our story.

When the initial news reached friends and family, many people flocked to help. We had phone calls, letters, cards and visits.  As I said, people want to help.  We immediately felt carried along by prayer, supported and loved. It was almost impossible to get down in the dumps.

One of the things people wanted to do was offer childcare for our two boys, who were 5 and 3 at the time. We appreciated that, but it’s not what we wanted.  You see, we had to be at the hospital for so many days, and being at home or seeing the boys was rare during those first few weeks. One or both of us were constantly running back and forth to the hospital and our youngest son even burst into tears once when his mother told him she had to go back to the hospital.

At that time, we wanted our boys close to us as much as possible.  

We found it comforting when we would get meals brought to the house. Folks brought the boys things to play with. Some ladies came over when we were able to bring our daughter home and just quietly puttered around the house while we spent time with the boys, slept, or even went out for short excursions while the baby was sleeping.

It wasn’t always easy to accept help. You know, there’s the whole pride thing. It’s hard to just take from people, even though it shouldn’t be. Some folks find it hard to do it.

So, the people who just showed up and did things were such blessings. They never said “Let us know if you need anything.” Most people aren’t going to do that. I’d advise you to just go do it. Go help instead of asking for a call.

I looked out of the window once and saw that my yard had been mowed and there was some new landscaping done. I went to my car several times and found gas cards, restaurant cards, grocery cards and various envelopes in the seat of my car. I still don’t know who sent them. Once, right before we had to take our daughter in for a lengthy chemo treatment, someone put the new Harry Potter book on my desk with a note that said “for sitting at the hospital.”

There were a few times that medical bills were paid by someone. Again, I don’t know who did it.

We had friends and family come to us later, after our daughter was well, and express regret that they didn’t do more. Some friends and family seemed to disappear at the time. I need to say we don’t hold grudges and we have not severed ties with any of those people. 

Some people are simply at a loss for what needs to be done. I am sure all of those people thought of us and perhaps prayed for us. 

Besides, regret is a useless thing. You can’t go back and undo it, so why wallow in it? Although we reassured friends and family it was OK, someone who has gone through something shouldn’t have to reassure guilty folks. I’d advise you not to put the patient of the family in that situation.  

When in doubt, find something you can do, even something small. Then, you won’t have to deal with your regret. I’m saying this because I’ve been one of those people who hasn’t done anything before. We are all human.

Some of the things we appreciated the most were the times when people just offered normalcy to us. We were invited to an “outing” once and the hosts went to great pains to brief the guests beforehand. Everyone had clean hands and were healthy. They were all aware of our daughter’s weak immune system and we ended up having a wonderful time with people we cared about. A normal night with friends. Yes, normalcy. 

I don’t want my last point to be misunderstood or taken as a plea for a “go fund me” type situation. I just feel it’s very important to let people know. Insurance doesn’t cover every little thing when there’s been an illness.  Some folks don’t know this and it’s tough to talk about.

After an illness, some people have years of medical bills which include periodic check-ups, treatments, and those expensive scans or MRIs. Indeed, people can experience constant medical bills for the rest of our lives. I have said plenty of times that it isn’t fair, but I also still have a daughter.

I’m sure the families of survivors feel the same way. One of the best bits of advice I can give you if you are wishing to help someone is: please remember the long-range struggles.   

I could really sum up my advice in a few sentences (but then I wouldn’t be able to fill this column space).  

Here are my few little tips for helping folks going through stuff. Show up and just do it. Don’t ever say ‘If there’s anything you need.’ Leave anonymous blessings if that’s something you can do. Be aware that folks don’t always need what you think sounds like a good idea. 

Lastly, be aware that illnesses and the aftermath often go on for quite some time.

Just in case you wanted to help somebody. There’s my two cents.

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