There are many ways to learn how to help a friend. If you–or someone who is willing to help–can assist around the house, it’s a great gift.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15)
When people wonder how to help a friend who is coping with illness, they usually think of bringing a meal, watching a child a for couple of hours, or running an errand. One of the less likely things to consider is doing a household chore or two.
It can be an awkward situation, as you don’t want an ill friend to think “Gee, she must think my house is a disaster if she is volunteering to dust! How embarrassing!” If you are wondering how to help a friend who seems a bit overwhelmed by it all, and is physically struggling, wording it the right way can make all the difference.
Saying something like, “I just can’t sit still! Do you have some laundry I can fold or something?” sounds more light-hearted and she just may laugh as she points to the pile. I have a friend who will ask, “Do you have anything you need me to reach or lift for you before i go?” If she notices a light bulb is out, she will ask where the new bulbs are and replace it before I can insist she doesn’t need to do that.
When I have had people over for dinner, one friend just started washing the dishes and claimed, “she loved it.” Somehow, I ended up sitting at the kitchen counter on a stool as she did the dishes. “Just talk to me,” she said. “I am not leaving until this is done.”
Now, let’s admit it: you can’t make a person accept your generous offer to help out. And if you are ill yourself, you may be reluctant about offering something you may not be able to do. For example, we may be able to laugh about the rings on our own bathtub to put our ill friend at ease, but perhaps those rings are there because we can’t even clean our own tub! So be practical about what you can offer.
And if you try to insist on helping and they insist right back you shouldn’t do anything, don’t allow it to ruin the friendship.
During Invisible Illness Awareness Week we have told “friends of the chronically ill” that there are times when they will never be able to get someone to accept help in their everyday life, but if it is during the holidays or company is coming for an out of town visit, they shouldn’t hesitate to make the offer again. (And we mentioned the amazing gift a housekeeper coming before holidays too!) Sometimes, hiring help can be easier for us to accept, then letting our friends see how big those dust bunnies are under the bed–though I encourage you to not be bothered by it.
We each can serve some way. Cleaning may be the last thing you can do, but perhaps organizing some people in your church who are able to help the chronically ill is something you could manage. Jesus tells us, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” He knows that we are made to serve. There is no asterisk in the scripture that tells us we are exempt due to our illness. After all, Provers 11:25 says, “He who refresh others will himself be refreshed.”
Prayer: Lord, teach me to remember to “wash people’s feet” in whatever way You call me and qualify me. I know I cannot do it all. I have to take care of my own body and my family, but open my eyes to opportunities around me where You wish to call me to serve. Amen.
About the author:
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She invites you to join the virtual conference this week for Invisible Illness Awareness Week. You can see the books she has written, including, Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend at the Rest Ministries shop.
How do YOU feel about a friend who offers to help do your dishes or pull out the vacuum cleaner? Is it too weird, or do you accept the fact that real friends do dishes and just thank her for the offer with grace and thanksgiving? I would love to hear your opinion because we all are so different, and some of us are gradually learning just how to accept the help.
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Things TO SAY to an ill person #8 I can’t sit still. Got any laundry I can fold? #iiwk12
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Here is a young man who is in a wheelchair who does most of his household chairs. He made this video, House chores from a wheelchair” to encourage people to be as independent as possible. With great ideas and special tools, he is a real encourager! (He has a lot more patience than I do!)