Helping a Loved One Can be as Simple as Pulling Up a Chair.
I’m writing this article as I sit in the surgical waiting room of a local hospital. It’s fairly crowded with lots of different people.
Their reasons for being in this waiting room vary widely. I’m the chatty sort, so I’ve spoken with several individuals and, amazingly, they all volunteer who they are sitting and waiting for. Other groups are loud enough that you hear every word they say, whether you want to or not. Some are here in search of hope. Some are looking for a cure or relief. For a few, the visit will end in a joyous blessing but for others a profound loss. The one thing we all have in common is love. We all love someone who is a patient here. Because of that love, we come and we sit.
Sitting is no small thing.
Those who have been in the role of ‘patient’ or ‘friend in need’ understand the value of those who come, sit and listen. If you aren’t sick but are going through a different type of crisis, having someone come and sit with you for a while really helps. It lifts your spirits. Having someone there to hug you, talk with and distract you, or pray with you is a blessing.
If someone you care about is in need, let me encourage you to sit with them for a while. Science shows that being with other people influences our emotions. And our emotions have an effect on our overall health and well-being. Keep in mind that this effect can be good or bad, so be sure to stay cheerful and upbeat. Nobody wants to be around a ‘Debbie Downer’, especially if you’re already burdened. Remember to be warm, positive, calm, and relaxed. It’s contagious!
Are you able to read out loud?
Read to them. This is especially fun if your friend is little, but everyone enjoys a good book. Perhaps your friend is in the middle of a book but doesn’t feel up to reading. Maybe their eyesight makes it too difficult to read. Books on tape are great for people with vision issues, but you’re sitting with them and reading is even better. Books are a wonderful way to occupy the mind. They can whisk you away to a fantasy world. They can offer practical advice. There are many excellent books that contain words of comfort and hope. Even a magazine can be a welcome diversion. A small joke book can offer lots of amusement. The possibilities are endless!
The postal service has power.
Offer to write a letter or send a card for them. Help your friend or loved one stay connected with other friends and family by offering to get birthday and anniversary cards in the mail. If you have a mutual friend, send this person an anonymous, funny card and sign it from the “partners in crime’. If they figure it out, it’s another funny story to share! There may be a letter that they need to write and just haven’t felt up to it. If you want to use the latest technology, help them ‘spruce up’ a bit, take a photo and email it to family and friends who would welcome an update. Or better yet, set up a ’Skype time’ for them to see and talk with others. Family was a top priority for my dad, and when he got too ill to travel, we ‘made the rounds’ of all his grandchildren on Skype. It’s all he talked about for days afterwards!
Remember that you have two ears and one mouth.
Be willing to sit and listen more than you speak. It may have been a long time since your friend sat with someone with time to ‘hear them out’. Turn off your phone or put it away so you can maintain eye contact. Get a quiet table or booth in a restaurant and get comfortable. Many people are auditory processors, their brains work through solutions and concerns as they are talking about them. Having someone who will sit and listen is critical. These people genuinely need to ‘get it off their chest’. They’re not looking for solutions. They don’t necessarily want your advice. They just need someone to listen. We often feel better about a difficult situation simply by sharing it with another person.
Knock, knock. Who’s there?
Share a good joke. Laughter is good medicine. It relaxes the whole body. It boosts the immune system and triggers the release of endorphins, your body’s feel-good chemicals. Laughter is good for the heart. It EVEN burns calories! So share a funny story of something that happened to you recently. Better yet, recall a fond, fun memory the two of you share and laugh about it all over again. I was visiting a sick friend who shares my sense of humor. I needed a good joke before going into her hospital room. I Googled ‘clean jokes’ and found a gem. We laughed so hard that a nurse came in wanting to know what was so funny. My friend told her the joke and the nurse started cracking up with us. She went and shared that joke at the nurses’ station. We could hear them laughing from down the hall. Another nurse came to my friend’s room after I left and thanked her for the joke. It seems the staff was in the middle of an extraordinarily stressful shift and the laughter had helped turn things around a bit. That joke was retold to many doctors, aides, patients, and visitors that night. So simple but so huge!
Do you know their favorite coffee?
Bring a simple, small gift. It could be a bud vase of flowers, a single cupcake, a snack-sized bag of favorite chips, a special coffee or tea. What you want is a little something that will stay with them after you leave. When my mother was in medical rehab, some friends from church would drop by every other day or so and bring her a small thermos of hazelnut coffee. What a treat that was! Joel and Charlene could stay and visit for just a short time as they both kept very busy schedules. But that delicious coffee was there to enjoy after they had to go home or to work. Oh, how mom relished that coffee! She was always careful to save a cupful to have at breakfast the next morning. It was such a simple thing, but yet, so HUGE. God bless that sweet couple!
Pretend you’re the butler.
Before you stand to leave, ask what you can do before you go. Do they need some water or another pillow? Would they like for you to adjust the AC or the heat? Perhaps you could close or open the blinds? If they are in the hospital or rehab, maybe they would feel better if you helped them brush their hair and teeth? Ask the nurse or aide for some lip balm if their lips are dry or chapped. These are all such simple things, but they can make a world of difference to the recipient.
Whether you go to someone’s home, a hospital room or meet at a restaurant on a lunch break from work, imagine the positive impact on their thoughts and feelings when you pull up a chair, sit down and listen. Picture the smile on their face after you leave when they enjoy the little gift you brought. The time you spend together sitting with your friend may be the only break they have from their situation. Because of love, you pulled up a chair.
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