I stared at the woman’s Facebook entry. It was several sentences long about how her family just gotten some bad news and when were they ever going to catch a break and didn’t life just completely suck a lot of the time? I read the update to my husband. He is the Home Teacher to this woman and her family. I know he cares about them and would want to help in any way he could. I scrolled through the comments and most were variations of, “Oh my gosh, what happened? Call me if you need anything!” “Yeah,” my husband nodded, “tell her to call me if they need any help.”
If they need any help???
Of course they need help. Look at that Facebook post!
I’ll tell you what I told my husband: never say the words, “Call me if you need anything!” We need to strike this phrase from our collective vocabulary. Usually we say this to someone who we know needs help; whether it’s because they aren’t feeling well, or they’re have family issues or they just got called to be the Primary President; this is a phrase we blithely offer to someone who is in a more difficult situation than they normally are. This sentence, meant to be helpful, places the entire responsibility of help on the person who is already struggling. And we all know how easy it is to ask for help! I don’t care how low I’ve been, I would never dream of calling up a friend to go to the post office for me or to fold my laundry, even when these are the very things I’ve needed. Even when a dozen people have invited me to “call them if I need anything.”
If you really want to be helpful, call a person and ask how you can help, not if you can help. Give them a couple of options so they know you’re serious. (“Could I pick up your kids from school and have them stay til bedtime?” “What day would be best to bring you dinner this week?” “Could I do your grocery shopping for you?” “Could I drive you to any of your appointments?”). Some people are very stubborn about accepting help. I’ve had to say to sisters in my ward, “listen, I’m going to help you. Either you can tell me what you need or I’ll just pick something.” They always laugh at that point and say, “well, ok then!” There is always something that can be done.
Listen, friends, good intentions are nice but we aren’t a church of good intentions. We are a church of action. That is what Christ has asked of us: to bear each other’s burdens. Not to pat a friend on the back and give her a frownsmile. As nice as it is to commiserate with somebody on Facebook, the true Christian actually shows up. The true disciple picks up the phone and says, “I can tell you’re having a hard time right now. How about I bring over some lunch and we can talk?” Or one of a thousand other things that a hurting person might need. The Holy Ghost can give you some great ideas.
My husband, ever the vigilant Home Teacher, ended up babysitting the kids of the woman who had been venting on Facebook. She and her husband got out of the house to regroup and spend some much-needed time together.
Don’t make a friend beg for help. Most of us would rather suffer in silence. Be the person that is an answer to someone’s prayers.