I’m perusing my adorable recipe box today to find something to make for a friend in need. As I was trying to decide on what recipe to choose, I was second guessing everything, wondering what would be appropriate for the given circumstance.
Cookies are easy and crowd pleasing!
But perhaps I should choose a healthier option?
Who cares about a little sugar at times like these?
Just go with that cheesy-potato-thing-with-corn-flakes-on-top from Aunt Chris – that is the very definition of comfort food.
Maybe I shouldn’t make anything at all … I would just be intruding.
And then I was reminded of a conversation a friend and I had just two days ago, where she was asking my advice on what to do (if anything) for some neighbors who had an ambulance at their house. Neighbors she doesn’t know very well yet. Would it be intrusive to bring over some cookies or fruit or something? Is it kind or is it nosy to have noticed the ambulance? What does one even say in a situation like that where you don’t really know what happened?
My words to this friend were, “Do it.” Bake the cookies, walk next door, ring the doorbell, say the kind thing, expect nothing. Worse case scenario: the neighbors don’t appreciate the gesture. It’s not really about you anyway, it’s about them.
So, I’m reminding myself of my own advice today, after getting some news of a friend’s family in crisis. I don’t know what to say, I’ve never experienced a situation like this, I don’t know all the details, and I can’t find a manual on how to appropriately respond. But, I’m going to “Do It” anyway. By way of refined sugar, most likely. And worst case scenario? I fumble, I say something unhelpful, the cookies are overbaked, it’s awkward. It’s not about me anyway, it’s about my friend.
I’m sure some would disagree with my theory on crisis response. Everyone is different and has different needs. However, I think that sometimes when news of a death, or a divorce, or a job loss breaks – we tend to close up. To recoil. To whisper prayers of thanksgiving that it wasn’t us. And then keep our distance from the ground zero of hurt/crisis/grief because we don’t always know what to say. We’re afraid we’ll say the wrong thing or a hurtful thing. Or we think that, somehow, by keeping others’ pain at arm’s length, we can protect ourselves from the discomfort, or pain, or loss from ever reaching us.
And we often frame this as “giving them privacy” or “not wanting to be intrusive” or “waiting for them to ask for what they need.”
And to that I would offer the reminder that it’s not about you. It’s about them.
So, take the risk. Even if you fumble and things get awkward (believe me when I say I have been there in the awkwardness, and you can recover from such an incident.) If I have learned anything from the moments of need in my own life – from death to a new baby to a home break-in to a family crisis that is fraught with complexities that prevent me from being able to sum it up in a single, explanatory phrase – it’s that I am forever indebted to the people who showed up. Who took the risk. Who called to say, “I don’t know what to say.” Who baked the meals. Who sent the sympathy cards. Who listened. Who swept my kitchen floor. Who cried with me. Who told me I was going to make it. Who kept checking in.
Some were awkward. I probably didn’t thank everyone appropriately. Many were imperfect. But all were appreciated.
So, DO IT.
Bake the cookies. Send the card. Leave the voicemail. Offer the apology. Shovel the sidewalk. Give the hug. Wash the dishes. Send the text. Offer the ride. Say the prayer. Walk the dog. Drop off Aunt Chris’s cheesy potatoes with cornflakes on top without questioning the presence of cereal on a casserole.