Do you know a family going through a rough patch? Perhaps they’ve just had tough news about health issues or a significant loss through natural disaster or other ways. With all of the recent fires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and seeing some friends recovering from hurricanes in other parts of the country, I yearn to help. Sometimes it’s easy to send a quick prayer up and then get on with life. The echoes of our own weary years as wildfire survivors who lost everything still keep me tender when I hear of another family that may need extra kindness. But what can you really do to make a difference, right now?
After making some videos and free resources for fire victims, I was asked to put together ideas for the “best practices” of recovery work, which you can find in a guide on my products page called The Bridge (pictured below).
I’ve listed some practical and meaningful things from this guide you might offer this holiday season, if your friend is receptive. You will be remembered long after the emergency has passed.
These ideas work in a variety of situations and can make a powerful difference:
- Coordinate communication—When you’re in a crisis it’s overwhelming to continually update social media and return phone calls. Having a close friend to put out a Caring Bridge update about medical issues or input emails for a group letter is a huge help.
- Build documentation and accounting systems—If you know someone who’s having to document their contents, it is pretty daunting. I had a wonderful friend who would go to coffee with me, open a spreadsheet, and I’d virtually walk through a room, open drawers and she’d input the number of items in for me while I talked. It really helped me begin the huge task of documenting everything and was a relief to not be alone in this task.
- Donations of toys, gift certificates, restaurant items—These items are invaluable. If you don’t even have pots and pans, you can imagine that cooking would be tough. Plus getting out of your temporary living situation or a breather from difficult talks is a real boost.
- Physical help digging out or rebuilding—Ask if they need handyman help of any kind. Sandbagging, fixing something, or even assembling things (they may not have tools any more!). The little things make a difference.
- Carpool help and sitting dates—Offer to pick up some of the rides for kids’ activities, or make a run to the grocery for the family. Then also offer a date for the family, so they keep close during this trying time.
- Be a “firsts” buddy—There are so many firsts when you’re in rebuild mode. Buying clothing, getting silverware, coffee cups, etc. When you’re brittle from a huge loss going shopping with a friend really lifts the spirits. It reminds them they’re not alone in this challenge.
- Open your home for meals or parties—I have such tender memories of families that simply invited us over for dinner so we could be in a “normal” home for an evening. Our kids loved it too. And when we had to move suddenly one year, a friend offered to host my tea party at her home. What a gift!
- Build a prayer team—When you’re in the midst of a huge challenge, it’s so comforting to have others offer to pray. When our son was in the hospital, near death, a friend put him on a national prayer list with chaplains—and within 24 hours there was a significant difference. We knew right away that prayer had impacted our life.
- Arrange a shower or photo date—Perhaps your friend needs a whole new kitchen. Some home goods companies will match gifts that groups make in rebuilding for people. Also, if they’ve lost all their family photos, arrange a photograph session for them soon. Having at least one photo on the wall is a real gift when you have none.
- Fill a freezer with everyday love—First ask if they have access to a freezer, but filling it with health soups and sauces can reduce the eating out all the time and each night they don’t have to cook is a real gift too.
The full guide is $10 on my products page HERE along with inspiring videos about starting life over again and dealing with the implications of tragedy in forward-moving ways.
There are many worthy local causes in Gatlinburg and across the country worth supporting as well, such as Dolly Parton’s My People Fund. Connect with one that touches your heart this holiday and remember the real gift of faith in action this Christmas.
Plus, check out Loretta Eidson’s blog HERE for more tips soon about how to talk to hurting friends this holiday. Loretta and I wanted to put these resources out to help in her home state and beyond.
Opening image courtesy of andongob at FreeDigitalPhotos.net