How can I help?
Recently, a friend’s young and insanely full of life husband passed away suddenly. I was with her the day before he died. It still runs through my mind every insignificant thing we talked about that day. Even writing this now, it is hard to believe this isn’t a fictional story. When truly awful things happen to people we care about we want to help them. We want to be doing something (anything) to make them feel supported.
I came across the Lotsa Helping Hands website when offering to deliver food for my friend following the funeral. Someone had set up a private community page for her. Once accepted into her community, I could sign up for days to do tasks and deliver food. These communities can be used for shorter term support like during the early days of grieving or when someone is recovering from a medical issue. It was originally designed to provide longer term support to care for caregivers. These are the people that provide daily assistance to another person like an aging parent or a special needs child.
The possibilities to coordinate and serve each other through these sites are endless. I just wanted to pass this on as we are all likely to need it some day. Please tell everyone you know.
Would this have helped you during a difficult time?
Do you think of Facebook as a place to serve? If not, check out these seven ways to serve your Facebook friends more. This is just another way to weave more serving into your day.
- If you really like it – Like it. Sometimes I read a funny status update and literally laugh out loud. Then that’s the end of it. I don’t like the post or engage with the poster in any way. The same goes for interesting shared articles. I enjoy the message and then quickly scroll on to other updates. It’s a missed opportunity to send a small positive message to the poster. And let’s be honest – it takes half a second of effort. This isn’t about liking every post that comes our way. It’s just about giving others more genuinely positive interactions.
- Broaden your circle of commenting. Most of us limit our comments on Facebook to things posted by our bestie, our family, and the people we talk to offline anyway. Facebook is a great place to interact with our close friends. But we may miss a chance to strengthen our broader social networks. Think about the last 10 comments you’ve posted and consider if they were all to one group of friends. If so, maybe it’s time to give others some love.
- Support the dreamer in your life – Share their content. If you have someone in your life that is trying to get a new community service or business venture off the ground consider sharing their posts. This is a simple act of support. It shows that you want to help them spread the word. It also sends information to your network that could be useful to them.
- Consider compassionate online celebrating. When you get engaged, most people in Facebookland will be happy for you. The same goes with when you get pregnant, when you have a baby, when you celebrate an anniversary, when you get to go out with your mother on Mother’s day (because she is still alive and vibrant), when you take that trip to Paris, when you lose 20 pounds, and when you realize you’re gorgeous and that everyone should see your face frequently so they can appreciate just how gorgeous you are. When these things happen, most of us on Facebook are genuinely happy for you. Please don’t censor happiness out of your posts. Just try to consider the feelings of those in your audience that may be wishing for what you have in that exact moment. Try to post with humility and with compassion. This isn’t a science. I don’t know exactly how to do it. But if merely thinking about it makes our posts more compassionate then I hope we will be serving someone.
- Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know. It opens all of us up to privacy issues or something worse like pictures of discount sneakers routinely showing up in our Newsfeed. Please don’t do this. You’ll serve us all. Thanks.
- Write unique Birthday messages. Someone recently told me that writing only “HB!” on someone’s Wall was an appropriate birthday message. I thought it seemed a bit impersonal. Try to take an extra minute and craft a sentence or two that expresses a unique message for that recipient. Our online friends are worth it.
- Defriend your ex-boyfriend and anyone else you might use Facebook to make jealous. Does defriending them seem too mean? Then create a list that sends your updates to everyone but them. Sure making them jealous was fun the first few times. But you’re better than that. Plus it is probably making your posts less authentic. This makes it harder for your real friends to experience the real you. Do yourself and the defriended person this favor. It will serve you both.
What did I miss?
It’s hard to ignore the elephant in this month – Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day stirs a variety of emotions for people (and not all are positive emotions). I feel blessed that Valentine’s Day sits in the middle of our glorious February. It reminds us that we get to decide what a day focused on love means. We get to decide how we spend this month and with whom. We get to live our unique versions of love.
I encourage you to focus February on serving those you love. As in January, you will find this month’s service ideas below. Try them if you feel inspired or create ones of your own.
February Service Inspirations
1. Make a special Memory game and give it to a loved one.
- Select 10 photos of you and a special person together (or places you’ve been together).
- Print 2 copies of each photo in 4×6 for 20 total pictures.
- Paste each photo on an index card. Make sure each index card is the same color.
- Trim the extra photo around the edges of the index card.
- Play Memory with your loved one revealing moments together at each turn of a card.
- Let them win (optional).
2. Prepare an Emergency Kit for your family or someone else you love.
3. Stock someone special’s car with healthy snacks.
- Custom made trail mix and water are great ideas. I like almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries but there are many options out there. It’s inevitable that they will end up in their car hungry or thirsty. That’s when they’ll think of you.
4. Give flowers or a plant.
- This might seem cliché, but I’m a firm believer in the power of nature to heal and restore.
5. Give them your undivided attention.
- This shows up in almost every list. It is one of the very best ways to serve someone. Anyone. It is especially a good way to serve those you love.
Who do you love?
How would they want to be served?
Serve Simply Service, by sharing or tweeting this post. Thanks in advance!
This is our dog. His name is Deacon Dillon Earl. Most of the time, we call him Deac for short.
A few days ago, I was talking to an online friend (that I don’t know well in real life). He was dealing with suddenly becoming internet famous and not knowing how to adjust to it. I have absolutely no experience in being famous so I could only offer my real life experience of adjusting to divorce and remarriage. Throughout the conversation I kept referencing things my husband and I had recently discussed. He asked, “Do you two typically have such deep conversations?” And this is where Deac comes in.
Let me tell you a little more about Deac. He sleeps a ton, but when he’s awake he has a lot to say. He is sarcastic and witty. He is short tempered and fiercely loyal. He has an ongoing vendetta with my super sweet mother that happens to not be “a dog person”. He thinks he outranks the kids and they should constantly “freshen up his water”. And he has apparently lived a life full of celebrity interactions and coincidental brushes with current events. We talk about Deac and what Deac told us often. By often, I mean every day. By every day, I mean several times a day. It’s funny. We like it.
And it allows us to not take life so seriously.
Service can seem like a serious topic. It gets people thinking about the big things in life – love, legacy, and purpose. But it doesn’t have to be so serious and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Below are 10 easy ways to serve in 5 minutes or less. So you can start serving right now.
10 ways to serve in 5 minutes or less
- Tell someone a joke. Laughter is good for the heart.
- Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “Hey I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes”.
- Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
- Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
- Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
- Pray for someone.
- Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
- Teach someone something. Anything.
- Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. I admire how much patience you have with me).
- Give someone you love your undivided attention.
This is just a start.
What other ideas do you have?
I recently received an unsolicited message through LinkedIn. The person sending it wasn’t a friend nor a professional contact. We have two people that are mutual connections, but I don’t know those people very well. The message was asking me to set up a time to review his resume and help him make it better. So why was he sending this message to someone he didn’t know? The short answer is because I happen to work for one of the top international recruiting companies. When Microsoft or Johnson & Johnson hire a new CEO, my company may be the one that recruited them in. I also used to work for one of our peers. He reached out to me because viewing the resumes of executives is something I do frequently. He wanted my help.
I used to hate it when people asked me to help improve their resumes. Friends asked often and it became a burden to find time to work on them all. It’s funny how the gifts that come easiest to us are often the hardest to share. I can’t promise that I can spend hours on each resume, but I will review yours if you ask me to. I’m good at reviewing resumes and I can probably help you. And that’s what we are here for. We’re here to help each other.
What are you good at?
Have you been able to share that talent?
I don’t remember that much about being a teenager. I know it had its “ups and downs”, but I made it out alive. Yesterday, I held a workshop for a room full of high school students (9th-12th grade). Initially, I wasn’t sure how the day would go. I worried that focusing on the topic of service with teenagers would fail to hold their interest. I was definitely wrong. The last activity of the day asked the students to break into four groups and prepare a presentation on their top 10 ways the adults in their lives could serve them better. We received 40 answers, but there was plenty of overlap in what they wanted. Below you’ll find the consolidated list.
- T.L.C. This is also known as Tender, Loving, Care. They acknowledged that they would not show affection back, but they still wanted it.
- To be a priority. This was said in many different ways from “don’t forget about us” to “remember what time you said you’d pick me up”.
- One day off. Defined as 24 hours to do whatever they wanted without any obligations.
- Teach them about finances. They wanted help understanding how to navigate the financial world. This included help figuring out strategies to buy the things they wanted.
- “Real life” skills training. They thought the school curriculum should teach more skills that would apply to their home and work life.
- Freedom to explore their sexuality. They didn’t want to elaborate on this one, but it was on the list.
- One free mistake. They wanted to be able to make one reasonably small mistake without getting in trouble.
- Teachers being more predictable. They had a hard time guessing when some teachers would be in a bad mood.
- Room to fail. They wanted to be able to take some risks and learn on their own.
- Lowering the cost of college application fees.
- Considering their opinion. They acknowledged that they have limited life experience, but they still wanted their parents to place some value on their thoughts.
- Exposure to more diversity. They wanted to travel and meet people from other countries.
- Shadow an adult in the work environment.
- Let them choose their own college. They still wanted the parents’ guidance, but wanted to make the final decision.
- Feel permanently supported. They needed to know their parents support would never go away, even if they made mistakes.
- To be checked on when they are sad.
- More privacy. This one wasn’t a surprise to me.
- Help talking through social problems at school.
- Discuss their preferences for attendance and/or behavior at their extracurricular events. The group was not in agreement on whether they wanted their parents at their sporting events or other activities. Many felt parents were overly critical in their attempts to help them perform better. Some were embarrassed by excessive cheering. Some just loved having the support and the immediate ride home. The room was definitely divided.
ANY SURPRISES TO YOU? Most surprised me.
The comment floor is open below. Serve on!
Tomorrow is the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. I’m blessed to have many relatives that live well into their eighth and ninth decades. I had more than my fair share of time to love him in this life. But, that doesn’t take away from the longing to still be with him. That doesn’t take away from the longing for him to guide and observe how my life is moving forward. I believe that grief teaches us that life is temporary and death is final. This lesson can’t truly be grasped with just our analytical mind. During the grief process, the lesson is taught in the heart.
I’m not an expert on this topic nor have I experienced the more traumatic ways that loss can occur in one’s life. The tips below just scratch the surface on ways to serve in times of grief, but it is a topic I wanted to cover. Anyone that focuses on serving people will have the opportunity to serve someone that has lost a loved one.
1. Fill in the gaps of their life. Picture the person grieving as a large rock in a glass jar. The glass jar represents their life before the loss. The people that are supporting them during the initial phase of loss (before and directly after the funeral) are the sand that will be poured in the jar until it is full. This image is important because it will help guide you on how to serve them. They will need help with basic tasks like having meals available, getting space to rest appropriately, and handling a number of routine chores that inevitably seem hard to focus on but still need to get done. An example of this would be to make sure any pets they might have are taken care of or filling their prescriptions. Look for gaps and fill them in. It is likely you will have to identify and suggest the areas to serve for them. At this stage, they may be too numb and detached to ask for help.
2. Help them re-frame what “doing better” looks like. As the grief process moves along, the intense periods of sadness and despair tend to become less frequent but the intensity of the grief (once it reappears) can be the same or stronger. This can be alarming to the person in grief as they “thought they were getting better”. Be there to remind them that these episodes of sadness are normal and that longer time between episodes is a sign they are “getting better”.
3. Share your joy. It is a human instinct to heal the soul. Grieving people aren’t sad by choice; they want to feel better. Don’t be afraid to share happy stories or engage them in fun activities. Check in to make sure you are doing that respectfully and on a pace they feel comfortable with, but actively try to show them the counterpoint to grief. Love and enjoy them.
4. Commit to a longer healing process. You never get over losing a person you love so in some ways grief is never done. I’ve talked to many people that have experienced significant periods of grief and it is clear that the one-year mark tends to be viewed as a disappointing milestone. Many consciously or subconsciously assumed that they would feel better adjusted after a year had gone by. It was a reasonable assumption as they had gotten through all the “first” holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. What they often found was that the second year (and the second set of holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries) were even more bitter because they had expected to feel better by then. They also found themselves with less support as people had assumed they’d gotten them through the hardest part already. Make a commitment to actively stay present and supportive for a minimum or two years.
Like I said in the beginning, these are just a few ways to support those in periods of grief. What other suggestions do you have? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. Serve on!