Sometimes we see sad faces but don't realize what's going on behind the sad faces. In April of this year, our 14-year-old son became quite ill with an autoimmune disease. We have been in the Emergency Department of three different hospitals with him 18 times since April 18. He has also had four hospital stays stretching three days each. He's also had two ambulance trips taking 3 1/2 hours one way.
You can guess what our emotional, mental, physical, and financial status is right now. Spiritually speaking, we are trusting God more than ever and feel His presence more than ever.
During these past few months, people have been kind, for the most part. Many offered to pray. Others simply said they were thinking about us. A few sent us some money.
I have compiled a list of things that I have learned (from personal experience) are real ways to tangibly help someone in need. Should I find others needing help, I'll better know able how to do just that. Maybe some of you will glean something from it as well.
- Prayer - I have craved prayer during this difficult time. I pray just about all day and night long. I pray while washing dishes, working my job, reading a book (yes, I can mentally multi-task). Prayer from others has been a true blessing of God. Here's the thing, however. If you won't really pray, don't offer to do so. A well wish or a "thinking of you" really doesn't mean diddly squat in the end. Praying to a living God and interceding for someone else is priceless.
- Take the time to cook a meal and deliver it to the family or individual in need. While we were spending countless time in the hospitals, NOBODY brought over a crumb - except for a good friend who baked cookies. We have a household size of 6 people right now. I worried endlessly about the empty cupboards and refrigerator while I was gone. Yes, I have some older boys, but honestly, they just don't think about that stuff. I was horrified when I'd call home and hear my 11-year-old daughter say she was eating corn chips and salsa for suppers - many of them.
- DO NOT ask, "Is there anything you need?" The vast majority of people will not list their needs for you. We always declined those sorts of offers because, being the kind of people we are, we just weren't comfortable asking for physical needs. We would just say, "No, we're fine." In truth, however, we desperately needed a lot.
- This one is a no brainer, yet I feel the need to list it. VISIT THE SICK IN THE HOSPITAL AND CHEER THEM UP IN PERSON! Can you believe I had to put that one in writing? All of those hospital stays and only once or twice did anyone show up to support us or cheer Ryan. Only once did we receive a visit from one of our pastors, and only because we nearly begged him to come. Tears flowed as he prayed with us, again after I asked. Our oldest son and friends came to visit once. Other than that - just some strangers such as hospital chaplains and social workers. Where were our friends and family? How about church family? Absent.
- Offer to care for younger children in your home. Again, we had to ask for help in this area. There were a couple of angels who did respond to the need. This is so important. Who wants to worry about younger children at home while trying to care for the one who is at the hospital?
- If you are financially able, send or bring money for the family. Outside of my sister, my parents, and three close friends, nobody has offered to help us financially with the tremendous bills that continue to roll in daily. Nobody has asked if we have insurance to pay the bills. We do, but we are still responsible for thousands. This is of extreme concern. We missed hours and hours of work and we don't get paid when we don't work. This caused us to get behind on our house payment and other bills. Now the medical bills? Faith in a God bigger than money is what we are clinging to. Do not assume that someone else will help the struggling family. Real Christians respond in real and tangible ways. If you are not able to help the family financially, that is okay. Just find another way to help them.
- Responding in love is the most important thing. God will provide with or without His people getting involved. When people don't respond to other people's needs, they themselves will miss the blessings God is ready to bestow upon them.