How many times have you opened your email only to find a prayer request for someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, someone who has lost a family member, or someone who is facing a crisis of some kind? As believers, we can lean on our faith in Christ to get us through the difficult days, weeks, and months. At the same time, we should lean on each other. Time and again, I've seen "community. " Whether it be at our school or church, people rally around those in crisis, walking alongside friends and families in need. Eventually everyone will face a crisis and the need for support from the community becomes so important. My own family was blessed by our community when we found ourselves in crisis, and we learned some valuable lessons:
- If you are the family in crisis, it's important to set boundaries for yourself and do not be afraid to communicate them. If your family would rather be left alone, express that clearly to your community. Everyone will understand. If you are not the one in crisis, be sensitive to the family's needs and work to meet their needs in a way they prefer.
- If visits are welcomed at the hospital or home, remember to make your visit quick. A hug, a prayer, and a short conversation communicates your love and support. An extended visit can be draining for the family or the patient, though that was not the intention.
- Offers to bring food are appropriate but don't be surprised if the family declines. In the case of our family, our stress and worry left us with no appetite, so food wasn't a huge concern while in the hospital. On the other hand, a few meals brought in once we were home proved to be a huge blessing. Gift cards were also a welcomed blessing, allowing us the opportunity to get dinner at a later date.
- Texts, emails, and cards are all great ways to support a family in crisis. They can provide encouragement, send prayers, and extend love, and can be read when there is time. Calls should be limited, so as not to overwhelm the family or patient.
- Look for practical ways to support a family in crisis. One of my immediate needs during those days we spent in the hospital was getting my daughter to and from school. Friends stepped up and not only saw that she had rides, but spent time with her, helping her young heart process what was happening in our family and how to deal with the crisis at hand. Sometimes the very basics of life- laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping, rides for your kids- are more valuable than you can imagine.
- Sometimes the support needed is simply being present – just sitting with someone, no words needed, just love conveyed. Early mornings in the hospital were the worst for me during our family crisis. A friend of mine offered to come sit with me, hold me, and pray. She let me cry and voice my deepest, darkest fears. She didn't do anything more than provide some much needed hand-holding, but that gesture of support will stand out as one of the most precious gifts I received.
- Remember that even when the immediate crisis may seem to come to a close, the family is still in need. Prayers are still very important. Checking in with the family continues to communicate that you have not forgotten them. Particularly in grief of a lost loved one, the pain continues long after the rest of us have gotten back to a normal routine.
All you have to do is look around and you'll find people in your community who need support. Lifting those needs to the Lord is priority, followed by finding practical ways to offer help.