I‘ve never been the cheerleader type.
No long legs, long hair or graceful moves that might have caught the eye of the ever watchful gatekeepers who picked the favored few each year to represent beauty on the sidelines.
So (I’ll be honest here) I really didn’t give the position much thought beyond the fact that those girls always got asked to dances first.
But in these years since Dominic left us I’ve learned something very important about cheerleaders-both the ones in the cute clothes at sporting events and the ones that come alongside others in real life: they make a difference.
Cheerleaders are more important than you think.
Someone calling courage can mean a heart holds on when it’s about to let go.
Someone reminding you what’s at stake if you give up can help you dig deep for that last bit of effort hiding inside.
Someone chanting rhythm to your plodding forward progress can provide another focus for your mind besides the throbbing pain in every step.
Someone showing up and standing by your side even when the odds are against you says, “You are worth the effort-win or lose!”
You don’t have to be a certain size or a certain type to be a real-life cheerleader.
You don’t even have to fit into those cute little skirts.
The only qualification is an unqualified commitment to showing up and being seen and holding on and hanging in no matter where life takes the ones you love.
You have the power to be the difference in somebody’s life.
I guarantee it.
So get out there and cheer them on!
We do it all the time in the physical world-leave the shopping cart in line with the admonition to the person behind us to “hold our place” while we run to get that forgotten item.
We leave a gap for that minivan to pull in just where the construction cones narrow a highway from two lanes to one.
We open a door and step aside so the elderly lady with her hands full can manage to get through without dropping the load.
But most of us are not as good at it in relationships.
Read the rest here: Holding Space
Some people’s passions lead them to headline making, world changing careers.
Most of us spend our days in smaller ways.
And we often feel like our tiny efforts create barely a ripple in the giant ocean of human experience.
But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect to make a difference in someone’s life.
All you have to do is care.
Compassionate companionship is a gift.
Learning to sit with another heart in joy and sorrow, victory and pain, sunshine and darkness all the while assuring her you will not leave-no matter what–is priceless.
Think about it: People pay thousands of dollars for a stranger to listen to their heart cries.
Sure, sometimes folks need a professional to help them untangle complex emotions, underlying mental health issues and substance abuse problems. But often, at root, they are simply lonely with no trusted companion for life’s journey.
Who do you know that needs a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, a heart to affirm that his or her heart is worthy of love?
Choose to reach out.
Be a friend.
Make a difference.
We’ve all experienced it and probably been guilty of it as well: listening with one ear while anxiously waiting to reply or to make a getaway.
I hate that.
What I LOVE is people who really listen.
I knew a woman once who made me feel as if whatever I was telling her at that moment was the most important thing in the world. She would look me in the eye, often take my hand, and never made even the slightest body movement to suggest she had things to do or people to see or anywhere else to go.
Even when we were talking about the most ordinary things.
I want to be like THAT.
I want to make every single heart that shares feel honored, loved, heard and safe.
It’s possible to stand frozen at the corner of good intentions and helpful action.
I’ve done it dozens of times.
And every time I’ve allowed myself to swallow “but I don’t know what to do” and done nothing I’ve regretted it.
Every. Single. Time.
So I’m here to tell you that when you get that urge, feel that itch, hear that still, small voice that says, “DO something“, then do it.
You may already have a good idea of what it is you need to do, but in case you don’t know exactly how to make a difference in the life of a heart hanging on by a thread, here are some things to get you started:
- Text, message or write. Sometimes a phone call is too hard for a weepy friend to answer. Better to send something that she can read and answer when she is able to talk. You can always ask, “Can I call you? I really want to hear your voice.”
- Deliver a meal or send a restaurant gift card. Sometimes daily chores are overwhelming and having supper already decided often gives a little breathing room to a heart already struggling to breathe.
- Offer to tag along. Go with your friend to that required event or necessary appointment and be a safe space in the crowd, a buffer against too many unwanted questions.
- Send flowers or a plant or almost anything sweet and unexpected. There is something magical about the doorbell ringing and a beautiful surprise offered on the other side.
- In the case of a grieving friend, photos of her loved one are always a wonderful gift. In the age of digital everything, taking time to print and frame one or two is really special.
- Clean the house. When things are cluttered, dirty and messy, it reinforces a sense of futility. Sometimes waking to a tidy space makes all the difference in whether a heart has the energy to get out of bed and start the day.
- Run errands. Things that are easy for most people can be overwhelming for a hurting heart. Pick up the dry cleaning, buy stamps, grab some bread and milk. Anything that can save extra stops on the way home from work.
- Make a care package. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. If you know the person well, include small things that show you are thinking specifically about THEM. A new journal, a pretty pen, a puzzle booklet, tea bags or anything that they might like will encourage a heart.
- Take the kids where they need to go or just take them out for a fun time. Parents often bear the burden of their own struggle and also the burden of knowing that same struggle is hurting their kids. Doing some of the heavy lifting of getting children where they need to go helps so much.
- Offer quiet companionship. Just come over and sit with your sad or hurting friend. If she chooses to talk, then listen. But don’t feel you must fill the empty air with words. Often silent support does more for a heart than all the sappy sentiments we like to toss at people when they are upset.
- “Like” their social media posts. You’d be surprised at how isolated a heart might feel in this age of hyper-connectivity. If your hurting friend is bold enough to admit it publicly, then let her know you see that, affirm it and are not offended by the admission. Sure it can be hard to hear the same sad song over and over but if it’s hard for you-and you can walk away or shut it down-how hard do you imagine it is for the person who cannot get away from the reality of living it?
Don’t ignore that voice that says, “Do something”.
Showing up and choosing to walk with a hurting heart can make the difference between a person giving up or going on.
In the end, love is what we DO and not simply what we SAY.
I’ve always been a bit of a cheerleader.
Not THAT kind of cheerleader!
But the kind that stands alongside the road handing cups of water to the struggling stragglers in the far back of a marathon.
Because I believe in doing your best and finishing the race, even if it’s hard and even if it’s not pretty.
I also think that often the difference between giving up and giving in or going on and getting done is courage.
Not the “in your face I’m gonna fight you” courage of action movies but the quiet, everyday courage of simply carrying on when you’re tired, worn down and empty of hope.
And the thing about courage is this: I can lend you some of mine.
That’s really what cheer leading is all about-calling courage to another heart, lending courage from the sidelines.
So many wounded hearts are walking around, barely holding onto hope, and all it takes is a few minutes, a few words, an outstretched hand, a smile, an open door or a pat on the back to strengthen their grip.
So when you see that downcast face, that defeated stooping shoulder, that exasperated mama toting three kids into the grocery store-don’t turn away.
Hand a cup of kind words in the name of Jesus.
Help a heart hold onto hope.
I wrote this a few months ago because it is an issue every grieving parent faces: Why do friends abandon us?
Truth be told, many of us abandoned others prior to our own bereavement for some of the same reasons.
It is really hard to hang in and hang on when a friend is going through such a hard time. Understanding why my friends might pull away helps me extend grace. ❤
It happens in all kinds of ways. One friend just slowly backs off from liking posts on Facebook, waves at a distance from across the sanctuary, stops texting to check up on me.
Another observes complete radio silence as soon as she walks away from the graveside.
Still another hangs in for a few weeks-calls, texts, even invites me to lunch until I can see in her eyes that my lack of “progress” is making her uneasy. Then she, too, falls off the grid.
Why do people do that?
Read the rest here: Why Friends Abandon Grievers