Finding balance in a chaotic world

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December 2017
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If There is Ever Anything I Can Do…

A friend of mine and I tend to lead parallel lives for some strange reason. Our birthdays are two weeks apart, and in a bizarre coincidence, our first children were born two weeks apart. About the only real thing we differ on is our views of politics and religion; we tend to skew on polar opposites there, but neither of us are rabid about it so we can hold logical discussions. Suffice it to say that we tend to connect well. As our kids grew up, he noticed that his son did not respond quite as normally as other kids his age. After a few trips to the doctor and some tests, they got the news: their son was strongly autistic. When I heard this news, it broke my heart. The amount of work they will need to do for this child and the knowledge that he may not improve crushed me inside, but what really broke my heart was the complete feeling of helplessness I felt about it. I really wanted to help, but what could I do?


I’ve told people in crisis “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” I’m sincere about this but I also know that they will never ask. I know in the same situation, I wouldn’t either. Not only am I not wired that way, but also when I truly need help, I don’t really think about who has said they’d help me and then call them. If I need assistance, I know who I’ll call without thinking about it. So when I heard about my friend’s son, I really did not want to send him some kind of platitude, but what?


Here’s the big problem I had. What could I do? Honestly, he was living in an entirely different state halfway across the country. I felt frustrated because I had nothing to give. I thought about just sending a check, but I wasn’t sure how they would receive it and honestly, it felt like a hollow gesture. I had no idea what he was going through nor what I could do to help. I told him that I wanted to help and to let me know if there was something he needed, but we both knew he would not call in my marker.


I discovered that my other friends felt the same way. This was yet another reason why I love my group of friends; we care enough about each other to really help out in times of need. So Dave decided that one Christmas we needed to do something for them, even though they were all the way in New York. We knew that most of their money went to treating their son and they spent a lot of time in their apartment so we came up with the idea of giving them a year of NetFlix.

We all pooled our money and surprised them on Christmas. They were overwhelmed by this seemingly minor gesture and all through that year they loved it. I was finally able to feel like I helped them, even in such a small way.


How about when you encounter a similar situation? How do you help when you don’t know what to do? Ever since that time, I’ve always tried to identify an immediate need for the family in the situation and offer that need. Do they need a ride somewhere, someone to look after their house, meals brought over? I find a simple specific action can go a long way in helping friends through a crisis.