Tonight, The Wife and I went to the Dollar Store and K-Mart to pick up some supplies to make an Easter basket for a young girl (2 1/2) who's in Children's for Leukemia complications. We didn't do anything extraordinary - a basket, some shiny grass stuff, some candy, a coloring book, a chocolate bunny, and an Elmo DVD on clearance. Still, we know how much we appreciated when people took fifteen minutes to do something like that for us, particularly if we didn't have to walk them through the details and they had common sense.
"Just tell us what you need from us" is a wonderful concept, but one that is not so easy to put into effect. When you're dealing with families that are coping with long-term catastrophic illness, telling people what you need is a difficult concept. How do you explain things? How do you have the emotional and mental energy to tell someone what you need? And yet, people might or might not think of what you need. We've had the rare occasion to deal with a small group of people that had a tragic lack of sense, which caused no end of friction at inconvenient times,
If you have a friend or a family nearby that is dealing with something like cancer or some kind of similar difficult, all-consuming issue, then you might want to help them. I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating. If you want to help them, there are a multitude of helpful things that you can do, depending on your financial means and/or the amount of time that you want to devote. One of the most helpful things that people did for us was to come over every other week and help out with the outside chores. We didn't have much of a yard, so the half hour to mow the lawn and occasionally edge the grass was a godsend. Maybe your friend needs someone to take care of the yard work, or to have the garden weeded, or just to bring their garbage cans to the side of the house. That's helpful.
Offer to make a grocery store run for them - if you can pay, great - that's generous - or ask to take a credit card. Buy a general list of things - eggs, milk or soy milk, some fruit, some simple snacks, some meat. Don't worr about the fancy hippy food unless requested. If you can't afford a grocery run, then a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts gift card is always appreciated. Better yet - a gift card for the cafeteria or food court in the hospital. Having $5 or $10 cards that would let me get a cup of coffee ate 3am when The Boy was awake and a grumpy was an immense luxury. The Valerie Fund gave us a $25 gift card to McDonalds, the only 24-hour food at St. Barnabas. That lasted us nearly a year, at around a buck fifty per cup of coffee.
Little detail things like Easter Baskets are also helpful. Who has time to run to the store to fix an Easter basket when you're juggling multiple children and hospital stays? Christmas presents - wrapping, if not buying; trimming a tree or an outside of the house; Halloween candy; fourth of July glow sticks. Even a leprechaun hat and some green juice on St. Patrick's Day are some things that can make a little cancer patient feel happier during a difficult hospital stay.
Don't have a cancer patient friend that you know, but you still want to help? Go down to the dollar store, buy a bunch of stickers, coloring books, watercolor paints and brushes, construction paper, and plastic smocks and bring them to hospital to donate to the playroom. Even better: when you buy a toy for your kid or for a friend's kid, buy a second one (or buy something neat from the clearance rack) and donate a new toy to the oncology playroom. Not a used toy - can't take it because of germs. Same thing with stuffed animals or cloth items, so just bring plastic or wood stuff that can be easily disinfected. Think back to when you were a kid: would you want to go to a playroom and find used, beat-up toys?
Don't forget a couple of sets of batteries. That's always helpful.
There's a million and one things that you can do, both to help someone you know and someone you don't. Some little, practical things will make someone's life a heck of a lot easier - certainly more than an empty "call me if you need anything" promise that is never used,
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad