Today’s post is inspired by my character Harper from Uprooting. It is about nice things to do for a friend or loved one going through a tough time.
At the beginning of Uprooting, when Harper got the call that her sister was dealing with a health scare, she showed up to be by her side and help see her through the scary wait time of hearing results that could change their lives forever. During that time, she showed her sister how much her presence meant in her life.
Harper, having suffered through a tumultuous childhood where the people she relied on to be there for her weren’t, understood the power of showing up. By showing up she unknowingly shifted not only her sister’s life for the better, but also her own, setting them both up to make a difference in the lives of each other and others in really amazing ways.
Small Details Matter
Harper realized through it all that being there for someone doesn’t require grand scale actions. It’s often the smallest of details that make the biggest of differences.
I recently experienced this epiphany for myself when my spouse landed in the hospital with a severe sepsis infection after surgery. Running back and forth to the hospital for 8 days, never knowing what state I’d find my loved one in, took an emotional and physical toll. I didn’t have time to consider things like making lunch or dinner for myself, ensuring I was hydrating, or my own terrors at what could’ve been.
As my spouse lay in a hospital room fighting for some form of antibiotic to work, life suddenly came into true focus. Life’s big important moments stopped being about promoting the release of Uprooting, producing my next podcast episode or being present creatively at my day job. As the blood infection continued to resist the antibiotics and scary what-ifs began to pile up in my mind, it was the love and support of family and friends that helped keep me focused on keeping my spouse focused.
I never understood the strength it requires to be a caretaker until I became one.
Nice Actions You Can Take
Family and friends brought me a meal, sent flowers and fruits, brought coffee, and showed up with short visits to show they cared. They sent messages. They asked about my spouse. They asked about whether I was taking care of myself so I could keep up strength enough for us both.
What happens in a situation like this is that is makes a person much more aware and more empathetic when it happens to someone else.
The gift is awareness.
I’ve had friends and family suffer medical issues in the past and never understood the value of a quick message, a card in the mail, or a hot coffee on the desk. Let me tell you, those details matter. They are life-changing when you’re in that situation. They give you that little extra lift you need to power through and regain some strength. They remind you that you matter and are loved.
Nice Actions Make Me Emotional
Honestly when people act with such kindness and gentleness it tears me up. I get very emotional and cry. But make no mistake those tears are not sad tears. They are grateful tears. They are born out of the notion that somewhere in this great big convoluted world that we live in, where everyone is so embedded in their own struggles, that there is thoughtful humanity at play.
I’m happy to report, my spouse won the battle over the resistant bacterial infection, having finally found a med that worked. It’ll be a long road of recovery to regain the strength the infection took, but it’s coming. And for that we are grateful. We will also never forget the power of the lessons we received from going through this.
We spoke this morning before I left for work. We spoke about the power of empathy and how certain situations carry a tremendous power because they are teachable moments. They allow us to show up and be there when it matters. They allow us to understand how small details mean so much.
As a result of this health scare, we’ve both learned how important it is to focus on being present with those people in life who we value. To send that card. To buy that person a coffee. To leave a favorite chocolate bar on their desk. To bake a casserole. And perhaps most notable, to show up not having all the answers but having all the love that can comfort those moments of unknowing.
When Life Gets Tough
Empathy is powerful. When we have it, we can finally answer the question that always rattles the heart of someone suffering, that why question. Why is this happening? Why me? Why them? Why? Well perhaps for no other reason than because things happen. Life happens. Good and bad things happen all the time.
But if you’re like me and you aren’t satisfied with that as an answer, perhaps you might find yourself caressing the same answer I got from this latest struggle my spouse and I suffered, perhaps it just happened because, yes, things happen, but because they happen we’re now richer in our capacity to show up for someone else down the line. And also to understand that the greatest impacts often reside in the smallest of details.
We know how to be there for someone now, and how important that is. For the one struggling, it can be the difference between viewing life’s situation as a teachable moment or a curse.
Which would you chose?
I hope it’s not ever as a curse.
I hope you see things as teachable moments.
A Teachable Moment
The teachable moment for me was realizing that little actions matter.
They carry great weight and bring about beautiful things like empathy and compassion.
Empathy and compassion are the building blocks of humanity. Just like with Harper showing up to her sister’s side when she struggled with a health scare and again throughout the book when she battled the complexities of sobriety within a life riddled with temptations and challenges, we can learn how to be better versions of ourselves, less judgmental and more compassionate.
A Few Nice Things Go a Long Way
The next time someone in your life is suffering from something, regardless if you view it as small or grand, show up. Be there. Have a deck of greeting cards ready to be addressed and stamped. Put aside a few extra dollars to surprise someone with a simple comforting gesture like a blueberry muffin or package of granola bars. Bring them a plant that reminds them of your continual support. Go out of your way just a little to show them how much they matter. That can make all the difference to someone fighting for comfort, health, or success over something that controls them.
My last suggestion is don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t have the right words and answers to comfort them. Those aren’t necessary to bring comfort. Your presence in some capacity is though.
You don’t have to be a magician with witty or inspiring words. You don’t have to have lots of extra money to buy a fancy gift. You just need to show up and let that person know that they are important and you are rooting for them.
Don’t be too busy to show up. It takes a moment to add a small detail to someone’s grand view on life and all its potential.
I’ve learned a lot about love throughout the course of this challenge. It’s taught me that there are some really great people in this world who care. When you come down to the real value of life, it’s not about money, cars, houses, or any other material possession. It’s about people. It’s about being present with people. It’s about putting down the damned cell phone and having a real conversation across the dinner table. It’s about being flexible and patient when life tosses you stuff you never asked for. It’s about being grateful for the small gifts brought to us by these big lessons. But most importantly, it’s about sending small reminders to others through our actions that on the other end of their struggles is a loving friendship that is more meaningful than anything else going on in the world at that moment.