Dear Annie: I used to be one of those people who, when I heard that someone was ill or injured, would say, "If I can do anything to help, please call me." I meant it with all of my heart, but of course, no one ever called, so I wrongfully assumed they were OK. Then disaster struck our home. My husband fell down some steps and suddenly was a quadriplegic. Not only did it forever change our lives, it also made me realize that even though I needed help, I was hesitant to reach out. So here is my advice to those who really want to be of assistance but don't know how:
1. If it's the season to do something around your house (mow the grass or clean the gutters), your friend will need to do the same thing. If your snow needs shoveling, so does hers. If your leaves need raking, so do hers. Don't ask. Call and say, "I have an extra hour. I'm going to run over and rake your leaves," and don't take no for an answer. My pride kept me from asking, but I would gladly have accepted help from someone who insisted.
2. Don't make promises you don't intend to keep. We had a neighbor who told us on four separate occasions that he would come by to fix a broken door but didn't show up.
3. Cook something. We can no longer afford to go out to dinner, nor can we justify the expense of the special van needed to transport my husband to a restaurant. I am so tired of eating nothing but my own cooking. If you make an extra amount of anything, your friend would probably appreciate your sharing. People tend to bring food for the first couple of weeks, but now, months later, a meal would be so wonderful, and I would be so grateful. Anything I don't have to cook tastes delicious.
4. If your friend isn't "tool educated" or "computer literate" and you are, you could be a huge help. I have several things that need fixing with a power drill and I'm not good at it and don't have the time to devote to practicing. Right now, I'm building a sidewalk to our patio. It would be great if someone called to say, "I have two free hours. What do you need help with?" One neighbor came by to remove our storm doors when it occurred to him that I couldn't do that myself. I could have kissed him.
5. Call to say you are coming over to visit. We both feel so isolated. I would love for people to stop by so I have someone to talk to and he could have a friend watch a baseball game with him. People come when we specifically invite them, but they never call to suggest coming over. I get it. Before, I didn't know what we'd talk about. But the truth is, I wouldn't care if we talked about the weather. I want to hear how "real" people live, not just rehash what our life has become. — Exhausted After 10 Months
Dear Exhausted: Your suggestions are excellent. Most people want to help, but they don't know how to do it. And they don't want to impose by insisting on cutting the grass, dropping off a meal or asking to stop by for a visit. We hope they will take your words to heart.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.