Most people have a heart that wants to give and do for other people. We hurt when they hurt. We feel for them when they struggle. And we want to help them along until they get to a better, safer place. But sometimes we're held back from showing them we care because we don't know what to do, or we don't know what to say.
In my recent Instagram poll, I asked two questions.
The first: Do you ever feel like you want to help someone, but you just don't know how?
The second: Do you hold back from saying something because you just don't know what to say?
I was pretty surprised to see the answers. Everyone polled answered that they have held back from helping someone because they didn't know what to do. All but one answered that they hold back from saying something because they don't know what to say.
You guys. I understand this, I really do. It's something that I've struggled with in the past and it makes sense! But I'm here hoping to help all of us to do a little better and act on those little nudges or good intentions.
Raise your hand if you've ever said, "let me know if you need anything." (I've got my hand raised over here.) Did you ever hear back from them? Probably not. And that's not because they didn't need any help. Trust me, they did. It's because they didn't quite know what they needed or what to ask for help with. They're overwhelmed and taking things one day at a time. So. We need ideas. We need to go a little bit out of our comfort zone in order to show up for them. And it may take some courage depending on where your friendship stands or if you know them at all.
But what's the alternative?
What if you don't do something? What if you don't say something?
One HUGE thing I've learned is that if you don't say something, you leave room for interpretation. That person might read into it and think you don't care. Or that you're judging them. They might feel completely alone in their struggle-- remember, 96% of people want to say something but hold back, so you're likely not the only one passing them in the hallway without saying anything. Why do we do that? Because we don't want to overstep or be invasive. We're unsure about our level of friendship or what that person needs. We don't want to bring something up that might make the other person cry or feel embarrassed or vulnerable. But the truth is, when we don't speak up or do something to show up, we isolate them from us. This is obviously the opposite of how we want them to feel.
So. What can YOU say? How can YOU show up for them?
Today I want to give you practical advice. Think of it as me coaching you and just throwing ideas your direction. Read thru the list and see what sticks for your personal situation. You'll notice that my ideas range from things you'd do or say to someone you're close with and things you'd do or say for someone you're not as close with. All together, I'm giving you 60 ways to show up for that person in your sphere of influence.
16 things you can SAY to someone who is struggling:
"Hey, I don't feel like I know exactly what to say, but I want you to know that I've been thinking about you."
"I'm so sorry. This sucks."
"You know, I've been praying for you to feel loved and I just want you to know that I care about you so much."
"You can do this. I promise I'm here for you every step of the way."
"You're not alone in this."
"I feel like I don't have the right words, but I want you to know that I love you."
"You're doing a really incredible job. I'm proud of you."
"How are you? Really..." (this has to be done sincerely, while making eye contact, and never when you're rushed to get somewhere else)
"Hey. We've been thinking about _____. We miss her (him) and remember how she (he) was always so..."
"I was just thinking about you and wanted to send you a text to let you know. Can I come by later just to talk and give you a hug?"
"I know we don't really know each other so I feel weird for stopping by, but I just wanted to drop something off to let you know I'm thinking about you."
"Hey. I know you're going through a hard time. I'm here to listen if you need someone to talk to."
"You're always there for me, and I want to be there for you. Let me help you. I can ______." (give them a few specific ideas of what you could do for them)
"It's okay to feel this way. Sometimes we just need time to work through it all."
"No one expects you to be perfect. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start. You can do this."
"You've been on my mind and I want you to know that. What if we went for a walk together and we could just talk? Or I can bring over a movie for us to watch together!"
44 Things you can DO for someone who is struggling:
Drop off a meal for them. Helping to cover basic needs is always appreciated!
Offer to come and help them clean or fold laundry, do the dishes, etc. if you're close to them and they wouldn't be embarrassed by having you see their home when it's not perfectly put together. Or...
Hire someone to clean their home if you're in a place to do that and you think they might accept that help more easily. This is a great option if you live farther away but still want to help!
Get together with a few friends to make some freezer meals and then stock their freezer with easy dinner options.
Bring by a fruit platter and meat tray (snack food items). This is especially helpful for families that are dealing with grief of some sort and may not be hungry but still need sustenance.
Arrange for a meal to be delivered. Often times, there are local businesses who offer healthier, homemade meals for delivery. This is another great option if you live farther away.
Purchase gift cards for different restaurants. Places that deliver are a huge plus! If they're receiving treatment at a hospital or need to be away from their home for another reason, this is especially helpful! Research dining options in the area and send them gift cards for those restaurants.
Take your family or get some friends together to maintain their lawn. This can be a huge help for people! Bring your own mower and trimmer, and some bags for cleanup. Make sure to pull weeds and water plants if needed.
Trim their overgrown trees. That's not always an immediate need so it's easily put down at the bottom of the list when life gets overwhelming.
Offer to take their kids for an afternoon. You could plan something fun and exciting, or keep it simple and have a playdate at your home.
Take their kids out to get ice cream and run off some energy at the park.
Stop by with flowers. Sending flowers is a great option, too, if you live far away!
Send them gas cards or grocery store gift cards to help with financial strains.
In certain situations, it could be helpful to organize a fundraiser for the family if they give their approval. Some ideas: silent auction, dinner fundraiser, 5K and fun run, Go Fund Me account, lemonade stand (this one is a fun way for the kids to get involved), selling t-shirts or wristbands, talking to local businesses about a fundraising event where some of their proceeds for a specific night would be donated to the family, etc.
Pick up their groceries and either drop them off at the door or help them put them away.
Ask to come by and set up a crockpot meal in the morning, then run any errands they might need.
Treat them to a movie night with a family movie basket! Include one of your favorite DVDs or tickets to the theater, and some movie snacks if you want to go all out!
Send them a package with some of their favorite things. Any package or card in the mail lets them know you were really thinking about them and you truly care.
Drop by with a sunshine basket full of items that are bright yellow and happy!
Gift them an art print that is meaningful.
Drop off a handwritten note or card.
Offer to help with pickups and drop-offs for their kids. Do your kids go to any of the same places weekly? You could help with rides to school, soccer practice, dance class, music lessons, play practice, karate, or church activities.
Share your repairman skills! They may need light bulbs changed, batteries and filters switched out, or other repairs and maintenance around the house.
Drop by with a game they might enjoy as a family.
Put together a meaningful memory book with pictures and stories.
Heart attack their front door, lawn, car, or locker with compliments and words of encouragement on each heart!
Stop by with a relaxing activity or art book for adults, or even a journal! Some people might love learning something new like modern calligraphy or line art. There are some great books on Amazon for these types of interests (think about mailing them something if you live far away!). Jo-Anns and other craft stores have a great selection locally if you want to browse in person. They might enjoy coloring and advanced dot-to-dot books, math and word puzzles (think Sudoku, crosswords, and word searches...), or maybe they're the type of person who would appreciate a journal to record their thoughts and struggles in.
Offer to take their garbage cans out to the street each week.
Arrange rides to appointments or offer to go with them if they're going alone.
Host a girl's night in for them with a few other close friends. Put on a fun playlist, prep a charcuterie board with your favorite foods, light some candles, and choose an activity for the night.
Take them to get their nails done and just get away from the stress of everything for a little bit!
Make a plan to do something active together that suits their interests... like hiking, rock climbing, zip lining, skiing, or going to the pool. Some of these will depend on the season also, but it helps to have an outlet or a good distraction for a few hours.
Make plans to meet up with a group of friends for dinner, offering to pay their bill ahead of time (if appropriate).
If their family is involved in sports or theater or anything else with events, find out when the next one is and make a point to be there for it!
Keep an eye out for them at church, school, work, or anywhere else you see them and make a point to say hi or sit by them.
If you have some of the same classes together, offer to study together or go over notes before the next exam.
Write compliments and words of encouragement on slips of paper and put them into a "happy notes" jar.
Text them a quote or article that made you think of them.
Lend them your library of favorite books or movies, or write a list of your favorite Netflix shows they can binge watch. This is mostly helpful for those that are going through medical problems and are confined to their bed.
Put together a playlist of music and share it with them.
Is there an urgent need you can help fill? From collecting clothing for their family to getting back to school supplies for their kids, pull together your resources to lend a hand.
Put together a basket of activities and snacks for their kids. Drop by Target and the Dollar Tree to pick out coloring books, little toys, sticker books, silly puddy, special stuffed animal friends, a few snacks or treats, and maybe even a movie!
Offer to take photographs of their family or individuals if you have that skill to share!
Spend an evening browsing Barnes and Noble together. You could stop at the bakery for a treat or drink, then browse some recent books and just spend time together talking. Everyone needs connection and time to hit the reset button so they're ready to face another day!
No matter what this list inspires you to do, I hope you remember that the most important thing is to do something. Your kindness and sacrifice will have a huge impact on the person you're showing up for. It's something they'll never forget.
Don't doubt your sphere of influence. You have someone in your life that maybe only you can reach. There's a reason for that and it's our responsibility to reach out to them. We can truly make a difference when we #liftwherewestand.