“If There’s Anything I Can Do…”

First I want to apologize. This is to those readers who – whether or not it’s actually true – claim they can’t get through their Tuesdays without a new 50 Good Deeds post. I’m sorry for the silence.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been focused on my husband’s unexpected health crisis, 10-day hospitalization and subsequent recovery. Pretty much everything else – writing, working, socializing, exercising, lawn-mowing, vaccuuming, sleeping and at times even basic nutrition and personal hygiene – fell to the wayside.

It was a challenging period. But we’re richer for the experience, of course, because even hard times have bright spots. For us, it was the love, support and practical hands-on assistance we received throughout my husband’s illness.

There were wonderful doctors, nurses and health care assistants, naturally. But there were also steadfast family members who took shifts at my husband’s bedside and did our errands. There were a great many friends, neighbours and colleagues who took in the dog, ran out for groceries, picked our daughter up from lessons, made soup, offered to cut our grass, called and texted to check in, and drove me from home to hospital and back again so many times that I truly believe I’m singlehandedly responsible for a fresh pair of ruts in the road.

I didn’t ask for most of these favours.

When we’re hit with hurdles, the folks who care about us often entreat us to “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” The fact is, there’s usually lots they can do. But for those of us in crisis, it’s not always so easy to tell people, “I need soup,” or “can you take my daughter to dance class?”

It’s hard to ask for help at the best of times. We worry that we’re imposing, that it’s out of your way. We honestly don’t expect you to put your life on hold just because ours is. (And it seems irrelevant that we’d do (or have done) the same for you.)

Don’t get the wrong idea. Even the “let-me-know” sentiment is deeply appreciated, because it demonstrates that you are thinking of us, and sincerely yearning to help us. But please know that if I never got back to you with a specific assignment, it may have been because I was distracted or sleep-deprived, I was worried about asking too much, or I had a kadzillion other details to keep track of.

In the aftermath of all of this, I feel fortunate. I am incredibly thankful for every single expression of love and support.

But I have to say… I’m even more indebted to those who just went ahead and made the damn soup.

Everyone needs a cheeky kid to cheer up their hospital room. This one helped me brighten her dad’s bulletin board, then photobombed my attempt to capture it for posterity.

Everyone needs a cheeky kid to cheer up their hospital room. This one helped me brighten her dad’s bulletin board, then photobombed my attempt to capture it for posterity.

12 responses to ““If There’s Anything I Can Do…”

  1. To say ‘we are thinking about you three’ sounds a little thin, but we really are. You’re all the way over in Toronto, and we’re all the way over here in Saskatoon, but we’re going to make soup anyway and toast to your recovered health.

  2. A soup toast sounds very welcome to me, Karin! Everyone is doing well now, and we appreciate the thoughts!

  3. Like Karin I’m too far away for soup, or lawn mowing, how about prayers? Oh what the heck you getting one anyway. I don’t need permission.

  4. Glad you are all back together now on home turf.

  5. Thanks to a conversation I had with a friend a little while ago, I now know to just go ahead and make the damn soup, or ask about specific things, rather than just saying, “let me know what I can do.” She explained, as you have done so well, that when you’re in crisis, or grieving, you may not know what you need to be done, or you may not want to ask.
    I’m so glad that you’re husband (and your family) has weathered this crisis, and I hope all continues to go well for you.
    I’m also glad that you’re back to blogging. Your posts definitely brighten my days.

  6. Thanks so much for the comments. Love these.

  7. Damnit – I make great soup, but I live in Montreal. I was making virtual soup, and sending chocolate – hope they arrived eventually.

  8. They virtually did, Kathe! Merci beaucoup!

  9. Dear Lisa, I am so happy to hear that things are much better. I just wanted to throw in my two cents. Often I find myself in the situation of wanting to help (“tell me what to do”). People who are closer (by distance or as regular part of their lives) to the one who needs support have an “easier” task. They know the person, they know their schedule, they know many details. You run in them on your street, you phone them ever so often or provide regular updates one way or another. Those who have some attachment of the one that needs help, often lost between not wanting to pry and wanting to help. I certainly expect close friends and family to say I will drop off something, what is the best time, or when can I pick-up your daughter? The same from a distant friend would be a ‘bit weird. I knew people who just wanted to know way to much about private issues, and it was not pleasant at all. I have been in the situation in the past that I needed help, and there were those who came forward, but I also did not hesitate to fire up an email to all my friends who were reasonably close, and list what they can do, and what they can “sign up for”. The combo is the best. Reaching out should go both ways. I believe people are generally great with wanting to help, we just have to learn how to ask.

  10. Thank you, E.B., for your comments and insights! You raise some good points. I turned down an offer of help from one friend simply because she is not in my neighbourhood, and is incredibly busy – it would have been hugely out of her way to do anything. And I agree that sometimes people just want to know the gory details without offering anything in return. But I will also say that, on the flip side, a certain friend who really came through for me when I needed help in the past became a much closer friend as a result. So you never know!

  11. Peggy Aronson

    I’m so sorry to hear about your ordeal. Oddly enough I was just in the process of writing a blog entry from the viewpoint of a clueless caregiver. http://inspiringgooddeeds.blogspot.com/
    Thank you for sharing your recent experience.

  12. Really interesting post, Peggy! I think the fact that you want to help and are trying to help speaks volumes and volumes, no matter what the outcome. I hope you’re giving yourself the credit you deserve!

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