I read an article this morning about how we are quick to throw around the phrase, “Let me know if I can do anything.” We find out that a friend or family member is hurting in some way, and we say it. Sometimes we mean it. We really want to help! Others, maybe, we don’t feel like helping (or don’t have time to help, more likely) but want to get “credit” for appearing helpful anyway.
So we say it. “Let me know if I can do anything.” And our friends or our family members who are struggling respond with, “Okay, thanks. Yes, I will.”
But they don’t. And so we don’t.
Reading this article made me real grumpy. Because I’m guilty of this way more often than I want to admit! Almost always the words are coming from a place of good intentions. I truly DO want to help, but I’m not sure how. I’m not sure what’s needed or what will be seen as intrusive or even offensive. I want badly to make something better for my loved ones, but I just don’t know how. (I’ll confess that I’ve said it and not meant more than once, too. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.)
As I read about this cliche and how it’s so NOT helpful, I thought back a few days to my texts to a friend. “Is there anything you need?” “What can I do?” I thought about it as I heard her mention to someone at church, “Sorry I didn’t return your message. I had, like, 50 of them on my phone!” I thought about how, in the end, I didn’t do anything to help my friend aside from praying (which is not nothing!!) and sending her encouraging text messages.
I thought about how I didn’t take dinner, didn’t watch her son, didn’t – in the end – do anything.
I’ve been thinking about this all day long, about how I want to be different, about how I want to teach my daughters to be different. I want my family to be doers of the Word, to have faith in action, to truly love our neighbors. And I’ve come to a couple conclusions.
First, I’m not going to beat myself up over an article I read on the internet. We try to actually help (and not just offer it) quite a bit. When I think about my friend who faced that challenging situation last week and my lack of tangible help, I have to remember my daughter’s response.
I told her what was going on with my friend (and her Sunday school teacher), and she immediately asked, “Can we help her, Mommy?”
We may not have hit this one out of the park, but my daughter’s reaction – and her understanding that when someone we love is hurting, we do something to help if we can – tells me I’m doing something right.
But I’m also going to stop using those empty words. Instead of saying, “Let me know if I can help,” I’ll say, “How can I help?” And then I’ll do one of the things we’ve done in the past, with my daughters right beside me so they keep learning how to help in a real way.
We make meals and deliver them.
We order pizza or pick up chicken and deliver it.
We send a thank you note.
We send a gift card or a gas card.
We proofread her resume – and explain LinkedIn.
We take baby clothes to a friend.
We pick up a Sonic slush on the way.
We sit and visit and listen and laugh (and maybe cry, too).
We pack up the kitchen and the boxes and the truck.
We unpack the truck and the boxes and the kitchen.
We order another pizza or fill up her freezer.
Helping friends in a real, tangible way is important to me. And just as important is teaching my girls that this is what we do. We don’t just talk about it or feel bad about it; we don’t just toss out platitudes or empty promises. When we hear about a lost job, a scary diagnosis, another round of the flu, a last-minute move, a no-good, very bad, terrible day, we do something. We help. We love.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”