As a pastor I’ve come alongside my share of people who have experienced grief and tragedy and loss. Typically, in a situation where one is hurting and/or grieving, they fall into three different categories (1) you know of them, (2) you know them, but you’re not on “friend” status, or (3) you’re friends with them (obviously the depth scale of friendship is broad: friend to good friend to great friend to best friends).
I’m sure there’s appropriate response for each of those types of categories when they are hurting, but for this post, I want to share what I’ve learned from (3)…my friends.
Background: January 9-February 1 I was in the hospital with my mom, then on hospice, and then dealing with post-death details (mom died 1/26). Today, I’m burying my mom and celebrating her life—it will be a wonderful party. But, yesterday as I was preparing some reflections, I thought back to the past 3 weeks of being with her and how I felt: exhausted and lonely.
During these 3 weeks I realized that I’ve been an average friend to my friends who have experienced crisis. Here’s what happened in my situation: almost everyone of my friends made contact, told me they were praying for me, family, mom, etc., and most said and/or wrote, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” It’s a very sweet and genuine gesture. Actually, it’s EXACTLY the type of gesture that I’ve expressed in the past. Exactly.
Here is what I learned during the 3 weeks and how I am planning to change: I’m not going to offer up help, I’m going to show up.[I can’t believe I’m just learning this now.]
Everyone offers up help! I’ve done this so many times. But, very few people actually show up to help. In this particular mom-crisis, I had a couple buddies who showed up in my life every single day during those 3 weeks. Everyday they made their presence known via voicemail, text, or they came by to see what I needed…the method changed, but the message was the same—“I’m here for you. What can I do to help you?” Most of the time I didn’t need anything, but their persistence and their presence was powerful (persistence was much more meaningful than I would have thought).
These guys taught me so much and exposed the weakness in friendship I’ve displayed for years. Bible college, seminary, 30 years in the church and I’m still learning how to live in community and be more aware of the needs of others.
Thanks guys for modeling to me something I really needed to learn. I’m grateful. Next time, I’m showing up.
Which one typically describes you? Are you an “offer up”…or… a “show up” type of friend?