There are so many overused sayings right now. Phrases that are just float in one ear and out the other…a year like no other. Unprecedented. Look a little different. Blah blah blah. We hear them so much they lose their meaning.
And then there are the ones that are not only overused but undermeant. One biggie: thoughts and prayers. And the subject of this little rant-ish post: “if there’s anything I can do…”
It’s natural for many of us to want to offer help. Really, it is. I am in this camp and readily offer to give aid when people are in a pinch, a tough spot, or in a full-blown crisis. It’s in my nature (and my enneagram.)
But in recent weeks I’ve wondered… do we really mean it? Or is it just empty comments to make us feel better about the powerlessness we might feel in times of turmoil? What might helping mean?
A friend has a relative in the hospital. They need someone to sit with them in the waiting room. They may need a disinterested friend to sit with them as they talk to the doctor. They need childcare. They need someone to clean their house, take care of their dog. They need grocery shopping. They need respite support.
A co-worker has car trouble. They need to get to work. They need someone to pick them up, take them home, take them out on errands. Take them to the repair shop.
An elderly neighbor is isolated at home. They need technical help with online billpay. They need someone to drive them to doctor’s appointments. They need companionship. They need someone to connect with. A ride to the senior center. A walk at the park. A help with household tasks and chores. They need stimulating talk and even the occasional adventure.
So many people have needs. It’s actually overwhelming to think of all the ways that others may need help. Some of these remain invisible. People don’t ask others for what they might need. We are afraid of inconveniencing others. Afraid to share our vulnerability. Afraid to need others.
I do get this because there are many times we ask for help and people bail out at the last minute. Why say “if there’s anything you need” if you don’t really mean it?
On the flip side, if you do ask someone for something, expect them to come through. It’s frustrating to sign up to give help then have that blown off at the last minute. If you actually ask for help, mean it.
Logistics can be a nightmare. Yes, there is often some measure of juggling, reprioritizing, shuffling needed. People are worth it. There is no merit badge for suffering in silence.
Whatever it is you say or do, mean it. Don’t drop in empty offers of help to make yourself feel better. Be sincere. Not someone who gives too much lip service and not enough actual service.