Don’t Ask, Just Do It: Helping Friends in Need

How to Help: 6 Awesome Opportunities to Give Back Around Chicago This Summer

When there’s a new baby, or your friend has the flu, delivering dinner is definitely welcome.

But when the worst happens—a husband dies suddenly, a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, or a rugged divorce gets more rugged—what do you do?

“Calling and saying, `Call me anytime, I’ll do anything for you’ isn’t going to help,” says a North Shore woman I’ll call “Amanda,” who’s put some thought into this matter. “Be specific. What’s really helpful is to call and say, `We’re going apple picking. Why don’t you come with us?’”

Amanda, who prefers to remain anonymous so as not to publicize her friend’s woes, says, “Years ago, a fellow mom lost her husband to a heart attack. She had three kids, ages 5, 3 and 1. She’s suddenly a single mom. How do you help her get through that?”

Amanda learned by trying to help.

“My friend was terribly lonely, especially on weekends. People do family activities all weekend and would forget about them. But my friend still liked to do fun things, even with another family. She’d say, `My kids need to be around a dad figure!’”

She helped her friend by offering to come over for two hours on a Saturday so the friend could go for a run, or showing up at the end of the day to chat with her friend and help her through bath and bed time with the kids.

In another instance, a mother at Amanda’s school passed away. In front of the family’s home were two huge planters, which the mother always filled. In the spring, Amanda and her friends went and planted pansies and pussy willows.

“We didn’t ask. We just did it,” Amanda says.

Other helpful tips:

  • Meal sign-up that allows you to see what others are bringing
  • A central location for updates on illnesses and a way for friends to share their love and support
  • Another online meal calendar
  • Make dinner easy for the recipient by using disposable containers. Include paper plates and cups so clean-up is easy. A bouquet of flowers helps feed the spirit, so add some daisies or tulips
  • Flood your friend’s email with friendly, encouraging messages
  • Offer to make lunches for school-aged children
  • Offer to grocery shop
  • Offer to carpool
  • Drop off bagels and cream cheese one weekend morning – bagels can be frozen for later, and eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight or an after-school snack
  • Drop off healthy and fun snacks. Trader Joe’s has all sorts of things that are great for kids when they get home from school, or to take in their backpack
  • When you visit in the hospital, bring unscented hand lotion and lip balm – Aveeno or Kiehl’s are so nice and a real treat. Sheer lipstick might be welcomed, too
  • Give a pretty journal and pen or two – can also be used as a guestbook
  • Drop off magazines, or offer to bring books, music and movies from the library

When you needed help, what were the nicest things friends did for you? Comment below.

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