“When true friends meet in adverse hour;
‘Tis like a sunbeam through a shower.
A watery way an instant seen,
The darkly closing clouds between.”
~ Sir Walter Scott
When someone is going through the bumps and difficulties of life, a friend can make their journey that much easier.
We have become a society where we are not good at asking for or accepting help when we need it; and where in our desire not to intrude, we often don’t offer that help when we could have given it so easily.
Conversely we often we don’t need someone to fix things for us – we’ll be fine to get through things in our own way, and that is also how we learn in life. But it can be so uplifting to have someone ease our burden, if only for a moment. It reminds us that we are loved, that there is hope and goodness still, and it allows us to focus on what’s in front of us so we CAN find our way through.
Don’t ever underestimate the gift of small acts of kindness. A simple phone call, a cuppa and a chat, a bunch of flowers from your garden, a casserole or a pot of soup, the loan of some books or DVDs – all of these simple gestures can make a vast difference in the life of someone who is busy coping with whatever life has just thrown them.
Anyone who has suffered from depression, ongoing family or relationship issues, the prolonged care of a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness, or who has suffered a loss or setback in life will tell you that support is often strong to start off with, but fades away, or worse – people begin to tell them to ‘think positive’, to ‘look on the bright side’, to ‘snap out of it’, ‘get over it’, ‘move on’ or other such sentiments that are equally unhelpful.
Some situations in life are over in an instant, but leave a lasting impact. Some situations take a very long time to resolve. And we all manage grief and loss in our own way. It’s actually okay to let people who are in the midst of misery express grief, be sad, feel flat or lost, and be anything but the life of the party.
So how do we help when difficulties are drawn out for our friends and loved ones? Think about the times in your own life when things have been hard. What made a difference to you? Firstly, don’t judge them, and don’t feel you have to fix anything or take responsibility for changing them or their situation.
Ask them how they’re going. Ask them what they need. Sometimes we need to talk things through, sometimes we need to talk about ANYTHING other than what’s really happening, sometimes we want to be left alone. And our needs might change from moment to moment, hour to hour.
The best advice here is to stay in contact, and then ask the simple questions:
‘How are you?’ or ‘Are you okay?’
‘Is there anything I can do to help?’
If you can see an obvious need, don’t be afraid to ask and then step in. Or if it’s appropriate, just go ahead and do it – hose the garden, mow the lawn, bake the cake, mind the kids, take the washing off the line, bundle up a care parcel.
Sometimes all that’s needed is a hug or a kind word.
When I was ill recently, one of my lovely writing sisters brought me homemade chicken soup, and another brought me a book. It was the difference between me eating something healthy and decent, and going without or grazing on whatever I could scrounge in the pantry that didn’t require cooking. And I had soul food in the form of something new to read. Heaven.
Two days ago, I came home after a long and very difficult day at my dying grandmother’s bedside to find that one of my dear friends had washed my dishes, put my teapot on the bench, filled the kettle with water – ready to go, primed the pot with my favourite French Earl Grey, and left a note telling me to call her if I needed to, that she loved me, and that all I had to do was flick the switch on my kettle and I would have a soothing pot of tea in no time flat. It was one of the most comforting and supportive gestures I’ve known.
It’s these small acts of thoughtfulness, these simple gestures of kindness that ease the way for us when life’s road gets hard.
How can you be a friend today?