**A proper health update will follow in the next post, tonight or tomorrow**

This  is a tricky one to write, but a topic I need to work out and start refining for an upcoming writing project, so bear with me, and please forgive my blunt honesty…

*People often ask of me, “Were you making that remark/writing that post about me?”  I usually tell them, “No,” as I don’t want to drag a small thing out into a big conversation that really doesn’t need to happen.  But this time, I’m going to be referring to pretty much everyone in my life, so the answer is, “Yes.  I am talking about you, but don’t even remotely hold any ill will for minor offenses; we’re all learning here, and I’m just hoping to enlighten a little bit from my unique perspective.”

Since my health ordeals of the past couple of years began,   the people in my life  have consistently demonstrated concern & care.  Unfortunately, this almost always comes in the form of the blanket statement,”Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”  Though seemingly grounded in the best intentions, I’ve come to find that it’s actually quite an unhelpful comment, and often a rather unintentionally selfish one.

What I’ve learned about “Let me know what I can do to help,” is that it really means, “I know I’m supposed to say something kind here, and want to feel OK about myself when I walk away, but please don’t ask me to do anything that interferes with my life.” As well intentioned as good friends are many offers for help are more often than not conditional, and, understandably, “anytime” rarely means “anytime.” It’s just unrealistic to ask someone to compromise their work or family time on my behalf when a long list of similar offers awaits.

Here’s the rub, however:  It’s hard enough to receive help (you know, that whole pride thing).  Self-advocating is just an excruciating process for independent types like me. Every time I request assistance and am turned down ( in nearly each case, for very legitimate reasons like someone being tied to previous commitments), it gets that much harder to ask the next person. At first, when one’s needs are new and in their infancy (read: hasn’t become exhaustion yet), it’s almost a treat to self-advocate. Any chance to mobilize the troops in your life is a little exciting .  However, over time, it just becomes a drain having to constantly burden others with your own burden. I know from being on both sides that compassion wear thin at a certain point when one’s needs persist without sign of letting up; I knew of a situation where a person had significant health & emotional struggle which the church decided to assist with. However, over time, it became clear that peoples’ desire to give had reached a plateau, as the situation was yielding no real resolution (in this case, being because other core issues had to first be addressed).

In the case of quite-possibly-terminal cancer, it can become exhausting for a community to maintain a regular level of care and enthusiasm to assist (Just ask the relief organizations working specifically with recovery efforts in the areas hit by the 2004 Tsunami, a disaster which has since been overshadowed by such incidences us Hurricane Katrina, last year’s earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and the current mess in Japan. It’s just hard to stay passionate about one peoples’ or person’s, needs. And sadly, over time, the needy party becomes weary of needing to ask for help.

I heard a quote once (which I can’t find any more), that says something to the effect of, “Don’t ask if there’s anything you can do to help; Think of something, and do it!” If I could pass along any message here, that would be it. Those people in your life who have significant needs have grown weary of asking for those needs to be filled, and even more weary of having to interpret the sincerity of those generic, (though  understood to be coming from a kind place) offers of assistance. The ones which have been the greatest blessings in my life have been “You doin’ OK financially?. There’s a check, without your having to answer that question, “I’m heading to the store, can I grab anything for you,’ “I’m coming over with a meal to toss in your freezer, “”I’m free Wednesday evenings after 5 to drive you around if you’d like.” Some examples of ones I’ve received from  many of you. And, of course prayers (when they’re genuine, and not just the courtesy phrase which I’ll address another day) are always more than enough, since I believe earnest, sincere prayers are heard by God and even if He doesn’t grant exactly what we’ve asked for, we’ll be blessed (not in the material sense, but in The sense of experiencing God in our lives) for it.

These are difficult thoughts to write out; the last thing in the world I would want to project is ingratitude for all the people who have kindly expressed a willingness to help shoulder my burdens as best they can. However, in my unique position, I feel an obligation to share what I’ve seen and felt. Many I’ve shared these thoughts with were genuinely surprised at the additional burden a generic offer of assistance places on the recipient. Or that, the person needing help is not able to simply empirically assess their own needs, and request assistance accordingly. In addition, sometimes the best thing you can do for that person is to offer them an escape or distraction from their current world. If all that looks like is a walk & chat about other topics, or a fun outing somewhere, you’ve given them something they wouldn’t have known how to ask for: a battery recharge…

Other great ideas which I stole (quite brazenly, I might add) from (http://metropolitanmama.net/2010/09/4-things-to-do-instead-of-saying-can-i-do-anything-to-help/) are:

– Writing a no-occasion note, to encourage, compliment, or whatever (and please don’t use “sympathy” cards, so depressing) I’ve kept almost all of mine over the past few years.

– Don’t be afraid of speaking generic kindness into their lives (I sure know so many of you have  turned bad days around for me with this one)

– Small, pointless gifts (again, see “welcomed distraction,” and “random encouragement”)

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for helping carry me through the last few years’ struggles. Yes, you’ve made a few mistakes, but that’s why you’re my friends and family; because you’re a little tarnished, like me. God’s grace covers us all, and turns our best intentions into solid gold nuggets of kindness (ooh, that’s a good one. Write that one down for later, kids). Ones that encourage when you’d least expect it.