By Guest Blogger Tara Pitts

My family and I once had an unexpected opportunity to witness amazing goodness.  It began when I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.  As a busy mother of two young daughters, I had popped into my primary care physician’s office to discuss some unexplained fatigue and weakness. The next morning, I dropped my daughters off at school, and by 4:00 that day I was hooked up to an IV in the hospital. That first hospital stay lasted four long weeks and kicked off a battle that I would fight for the next eight months.

You may be wondering where the heck the goodness is in all of this!  The goodness came in the form of notes, meals, prayers, babysitting, listening, and so much more from family, friends, our church, and just plain strangers. As bad as things were, the love I received from people was equally overwhelming (but in a good way).

As I’ve reflected on my illness and the care I received from so many, I’ve thought about what I personally had done in the past to support a friend in need. Honestly, depending on the situation, I never knew quite what to say or do. Occasionally I’d hear about someone I used to know going through an illness or death in the family, and I’d think how sad it was for that person, maybe offer up a short prayer, and then move on. I didn’t have very much experience with cancer at the time, and so my response was usually distant and vague when it comes down to it.

One thing I learned through my own experience is that to show someone you care about them is actually pretty easy. I found that small things, especially when they came from unexpected places, touched me. A kind email message from a high school friend that I had not heard from in years or a meal delivered to my family from people we’d never met at church.  Kind acts like this made my heart full and happy, which was exactly what I needed during that time.

So if you have a friend who’s going through a hard time, be it an illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, whatever, here are some ideas of what you can do to show that person you care. Trust me, it doesn’t have to be big or expensive, she just needs to know you are there for her.

  • Send a handwritten note or a card. Mail it to her. Just tell her you’re thinking of her and that if she needs to talk, she can text or call you. Even better, include a small gift card to Starbucks and invite her to coffee.
  • Take her food. Make something you know her family will eat and drop it by to help her out with dinner. If you don’t know what they eat, find a local restaurant that has everything and get a gift card to it and mail it to her.
  • Offer to babysit her kids while she rests or gets out with another friend or her spouse.
  • Do her laundry for her. Come tidy up the kitchen. Clean out the refrigerator.
  • If she or a family member is spending lots of time at the hospital, send her some money to help with parking there. It can add up over time.
  • Fix her a snack basket. If she’s going through chemo, consider lemon drops, tea, and bone broth. My oncologist prohibited me from eating some fruits, so check in with her to find out her favorites.
  • Speaking of chemo, if she’s going to be stuck inside a hospital or her home recovering, fill a basket up with lip balm, hand lotion, tissues, a pen, small notebook, a puzzle book, magazine, etc. I kept something like this by my bed for a year. I also kept some medication in there.
  • If you’re good at organizing, offer to help her keep her medical records and bills in order. A friend gave me a binder and shared how she had organized her information on treatments, dosage, etc.

Think outside the box. One couple we know took pictures of the fall leaves in the mountains and mounted them on foam board for me to hang in my hospital room. They knew I loved fall so this was incredibly thoughtful of them. I also received a big box containing a beautiful soft blanket wrapped with a ribbon and an Oprah magazine, which completely lifted my spirits on that particular hard day. But my favorite random act of kindness was when I received an envelope addressed to me in spidery cramped handwriting that I did not recognize. Inside was simply a bulletin from a church in Alabama. There were ten names on their prayer list. Mine was one of them.

Most of all, listen to your friend and meet her where she’s at. She is probably completely overwhelmed with whatever is happening in her life. She may not want any of the above and that’s totally ok. She just needs to know that you are there and that you care. Be honest about not knowing what to say or do. Tell her you want to help her. That will mean more than you know. Let her experience amazing goodness and one day, she may do the same for you.

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