So many of us hate asking for help, but there are just some times in life when we can’t do it all. Sometimes they are bitter times and other times sweet, but we all experience trying circumstances at one point or another and can become overwhelmed to the point where we let basic everyday chores fall by the wayside (cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn). Take having a baby, for instance. When we are inundated with new responsibilities like caring for an infant around the clock, we forget to take care of ourselves. Or, perhaps we’ve lost a loved one, been ill or had surgery. During those times, we remember and appreciate those who stepped in to lend a helping hand. Should you have a friend or neighbor who may be in need of a little extra help, be warned that she may not ask for it. However, I recommend stepping up and pitching in one of these several ways.
• Take them a meal. The name says it all and the website to help you coordinate the logistics of meal giving goes by the same name, www.takethemameal.com. This online scheduling tool allows you to establish a meal-giving timeline, list and instructions for those who wish to participate. A few pointers for meal giving are:
- Do not overwhelm the recipient with food. Stagger meal-giving so that there is time for the recipient’s family to finish leftovers. The person you are helping should not have to feel guilt-ridden about throwing away uneaten food that her friend has prepared for her family.
- On that same note, don’t overwhelm the recipient with pasta, casseroles and one-dish meals. Sometimes it’s best just to provide finger foods, meat and cheese trays, veggie trays and food that stores easily.
- Go easy on the desserts. If your friend is unable to make it to the gym, the last thing that she needs to nosh on is food laced with sugar, fat and empty calories.
- Fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy! Chances are if she has been unable to cook, she has been unable to shop at the grocery store and is in need of fresh, wholesome foods.
- Find out about and inform people of dietary restrictions or allergies.
- Offer to send over packed lunches for the kids.
- Deliver food items in containers that you do not need to get back. Your friend will appreciate not having to remember whose containers are whose and stressing out about returning them.
- Include disposable plates and flatware so that they don’t have to do dishes.
- If you can’t cook, you can always order out for them.
• Give the gift of a clean house. If you know the cleaning service that your friend uses, call them and arrange for a free house cleaning on you. If she doesn’t use a cleaning service, purchase a gift certificate for a free cleaning from a cleaning service. This gesture will go a long way in lifting the burden of stressing the house and who doesn’t like coming home to a clean house?
• Give the gift of relaxation. Present her with a spa gift certificate, massage gift certificate, a trip to the hair salon or a mani-pedi.
• Put together a basket for the kids. Include things to keep them occupied and not only will the boredom disappear, but receiving a basket of treasures will lift their spirits. The basket can include games, arts and crafts, small toys, puzzles, Play-Doh, movies and books.
• Offer to watch the kids or take them out of the house for an hour or two.
• Bring her a bottle of wine for the days when she can’t take it anymore.
• If she is experiencing a death or an illness try not to use the phrases “I know how you feel,” or “Let me know how I can help.” Chances are, you don’t know how she feels and she will not ask you for help.
In my opinion, one of the best things that we can do in life is to help others. Compassion goes a long way and your generous actions will not go unrecognized. I know that I view a helping hand as a blessing. I hold tight to those sweet friends that have baked, cleaned, babysat, and listened to me/for me while I needed a little “me” time. And I’ve done the same for my girlfriends. But you know what’s remarkable? Sometimes the “giving” makes you feel better too.