What can I do to help? Let me know if you need anything. Sometimes we say this too flippantly, almost like saying, "How are you doing?" when we greet each other. Sometimes we mean it, and other times we just say it to be polite. Does the person really want to help, or is it just something you say?
One of the blogs I follow, A Bushel and a Peck, had an interesting topic, "Let Me Know if You Need Anything." The topic and the responses left by others got me to thinking. It reminded me of one of the hardest times of my life, when we started fostering Ms. D and Mr. I. The kids came to us so hurt, needy, and violent that it was hard to live day to day. I couldn't keep up with the housework, especially when we all got the flu, while I was taking the kids here and there for appointments and dealing with their behaviors and adjustment to our family. People who we thought would help weren't able, but the social workers at our foster agency, Advent Group Ministries pitched in wonderfully. Even though there are things that pop up now from time to time, Ms. D and Mr. I settled down and the paperwork and pressures from dealing with the county social services disappeared once the adoption was final. But we really needed a lot more help during the first few months of fostering. I could get bitter about how our church pretty much ignored us, how scared and alone I felt, but a better thing to do would be to learn a lesson from that time.
I need to look for people who are in the process of adopting or fostering, to offer physical and emotional support. And not only them, but others who are going through a tough time need to know what I can do to help. It's not like I have a lot of extra hours to spend helping others; I still have kids with hidden special needs. But I can sure make a little extra food from time to time, watch their kids for an hour or two, or pick up something at the store for them when I'm shopping anyway. I can pray for them, spend a little time with them, and let them know that they aren't alone. I need to offer specific things, maybe even give some ideas, since if someone is having as hard of a time as we were, the person might not be able to think very clearly.
I need to really mean it and be specific when I say, "What can I do to help?"