We Want to Help | Mark’s Remarks


Many of us have suffered through hardships, sickness, death of loved ones, and other things life sends our way. Invariably, we’ve come in contact with people who want to show their support.

When my daughter had cancer as an infant, we had plenty of people who wanted to help.  There were people who wanted to take care of the boys. Had we taken all the offers, we would not have seen our boys much.  

At the time, the boys were missing us because we were at the hospital all the time. I remember coming home for a brief time from the hospital, the boys so glad to see us. When my wife told our younger son we would have to go, he burst into tears.  It was hard on them. So, we really wanted to keep the kids as close to us as possible at the time. People didn’t know this. We didn’t expect them to, and we appreciated all the offers.

We had meals brought to us right and left. We had people stop by to visit, probably too much, to offer prayer and support. People sent us money.  There were anonymous people who left gift cards in our cars.  A great aunt who we didn’t know very well sent us money with specific instructions to hire a cleaning lady. A couple at our church gave us money for gas to and from the hospital and bought several lunches in the hospital cafeteria.

We’ve been able to reciprocate or pay it forward many times. I am always thankful when someone actually voices a need. It’s hard for many people to do. I have buddies, far more skilled than I in the world of carpentry, electricity, computer skills, and the like. Most of my friends are blessed with a salary larger than that of a teacher.

I have often felt like I couldn’t offer much back to my friends. When any of them have asked me for help moving, help with some task or whatever, I’m relieved and thankful.

Why?  Because even though “that’s what friends do,” you don’t want to be a taker all the time. You want to do for others, too.

Often times, depending on the need, people have a overabundance of help offered.  Others want to do something too. There have been times that I’ve heard people say “We don’t need anything else.” I’ve heard of scenarios where people were actually suffocating with their help. Their intentions were good, but they almost insisted on helping, without listening to the people they were supposed to be helping.

One of the best exchanges I’ve ever heard was between a grieving person and a good friend.  The friend was standing there, talking to the person who was grieving.

“Listen, I can’t tell you that I know what you are going through, and I know that it is hard to ask for any help or for what you need. But you need to know that your friends want to help, even if it means leaving you alone. I’m going to be in touch with you each week just to check in, and I honestly want you to tell me exactly what you want. Whatever you need, I will try to make it happen. But you’ve got to tell me.” 

I thought that was pretty good.  

Sometimes, people really just need to know you are there.  They also want some degree of normalcy. They often don’t want to be asked how things are going, but they want to know that you’re ready if they need you. You are ready if they want to actually tell you how they are doing.

I’ve heard something, especially about a lot of folks:  “They’ll put your hair out if it’s on fire, but they might not come and check on you to make sure the fire doesn’t start back up.”  

This is true about a lot of us.  We want to help, but a long-lasting relationship is not in the cards for most.  

One of the things that means the most to people is if you check back in with them, on a regular basis. Even though our daughter has been cancer-free for many years, we still have people checking in on us. We still have anonymous blessings from time to time. After all these years.

And that means so much to us. 

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Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.