Making a Difference is Easier Than You Think

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 whatis 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.  

 

To-make-a-difference-in-someones-life flower elder hand younger hand

The Art of Listening

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. 

speak so others listen listen so others speak

 

 

Should I DO Something? Yes. Absolutely.

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.

love is not what you say it is what you do pooh

 

 

Helping Hearts Hold Onto Hope

I’ve always been a bit of a cheerleader.

cheerleadere

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.

handing water

Because I believe in doing your best and finishing the race, even if it’s hard and even if it’s not pretty.

hobbling-runner

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.

Reach out. 

Hand a cup of kind words in the name of Jesus.

Help a heart hold onto hope.

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

Bereaved Parents Month Post: Why Do Friends Abandon Grievers?

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

What Does it Mean to “Support” Someone?

Thank God for ADA requirements!

It wasn’t that many years ago when automatic doors were hard to find in places where they most certainly would have been helpful.

I remember approaching doors, arms full of bags and each hand grasping a child, hoping, hoping, hoping some nice person would be there to open it for me.

Many times there was.

Sometimes all I got was a glare and a sidestep from an empty-armed, able-bodied person.

I would manage to push the door open with my elbow but inside I was seething.

“Really?  Really!!  What makes you think getting out of the way is the same as opening the door?” 

(Thank goodness my thoughts are not displayed on an overhead sign! 🙂 )

In this Valley, I’ve discovered there is an emotional counterpart to the woman or fellow who refuses to actively help an overwhelmed mama.

There are those who see the burden I’m carrying and simply step aside.

I guess their rationale is that by not adding to the weight of my load, they somehow make it lighter. 

But it doesn’t work that way.  

As a matter of fact, knowing that my pain is seen but ignored is so much harder than thinking I’m just invisible.

Support means:

1. bear all or part of the weight of; hold up. 

2.  give assistance to; enable to function or act.

Support is going to cost you something.  It’s going to require action, time, energy, effort, commitment and resources. 

when the world whispers give up

I know it’s hard. 

Life is hard.  

But active, compassionate companionship is what knits hearts together no matter what struggle they are facing.  

And hearts that are bound by shared struggle and love are the strongest of all.  

friends uplift the soul little girl

 

 

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Parents weren’t interested in policing every errant word out of the under 18 crowd’s mouth back in the day.

It was a simple (and effective!) rule:  If what you want to say does not meet the criteria of T.H.I.N. K. (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind) then

just.

don’t.

say.

it.

THINK ACRONYM

I wish grown-ups would follow the same advice. 

Especially when it comes to offering up “helpful hints” to broken hearts.

In that instance it is rarely a case of another person aiming to be ugly or to hurt someone, but words are not neutral and they do hurt when tossed out carelessly by people who really just don’t understand another person’s pain.

So, for those who are tempted to fill empty spaces with empty words, may I help you apply the T.H.I.N.K acronym to the kinds of situations more likely to face us as adults?

T-Is it true?  You may think that giving out a Bible verse would automatically mean you were safe on this count.  Yes.  God’s Word is truth.  But how we use it and whether or not we understand the context can make a particular application of God’s Word UNTRUE.  And even if we get the context right, hammering a heart with a Bible verse may not be helpful.  You are not the Holy Spirit.  Let Him breathe truth gently into a wounded heart.

H-Is it helpful? This is tricky because sometimes what is helpful for one person is unhelpful for another.  I try to use this as my litmus test:  When have I ever been distraught and helped by someone pointing out the obvious? Or laying out a plan of action (when they don’t have access to the full picture)? Or reminding me that “all things work together for good” when right now all things really stink?  If there is any doubt about whether or not what I say will be helpful, I swallow my words.

I-Is it inspirational?  The word, “inspire” has roots in the the idea of breathing into someone or something.  Will my comment put wind in a person’s sails?  Will it breathe courage into his or her heart?  Will it lift them up and help them hold onto hope?  Is it the equivalent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or am I instead sucking what little breath they have left out of their body?

N-Is it necessary?  This single criteria helps me hold my tongue so many times.  I might think of lots of things but is is necessary for me to speak them?  Am I warning someone of impending danger or am I just trying to make myself sound wise or insisting on making a point?  To be honest, very few things I have to say are necessary. Most of the time a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a smile, a friendly nod are the only thing someone really needs.

K-Is it kind?  The word kind comes from the same root as “kin”-which means family.  Is what I’m going to say something I’d want someone to say to me or my close family?  Am I treating (with my words) this person they way I want to be treated?  The Golden Rule, rules.

I can’t claim to always follow my own good advice.

But when I do, I find that I am building people up, not tearing them down.

There’s enough tearing down in the world.

I want to speak light and life.

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle