Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Give me a Call"

“Call me if you need anything”. I wish I had counted the number of times I have heard this during my journey with chronic pain. For some people, I think this phrase is an “out”:  you share your story with them and come to a point where they don’t know what to say, but they feel they must say something hospitable and use the dreaded “Call me if you need anything.”  Others do genuinely care but don’t know what to say or do.

The problem is most people with chronic illness really need help every day but can’t call someone that frequently.  If you are like me when you hear “call me if you need anything,” you think the person doesn’t really want to help so you forget the comment was ever made.  But is that the correct response?

When people see me at church or swinging my daughter at the park they think I am fine, or at least doing much better.  So if I see them on Wednesday at Wal-Mart and call them on Thursday to help mop my floors won’t that seem suspicious?  Before becoming chronically ill, I naively thought, “If someone is well enough to leave the house then they must not be that sick.” 

Is it right to ask for help if I choose to use my energy for the day eating out with my family instead of doing laundry? Should I only call for help if I am housebound and really unable to do anything? I often think of calling for help as a onetime lifeline that must be used carefully. 

Due to the flare up from my recent procedure, I finally took some friends up on the offer and asked for help.  It was a big step for me.  I’m sure they would be surprised that a simple offer to call for help can be so worrisome to someone.  However, should it cause so much worry? I want friends to call me and offer to help with something specific, but that’s unlikely to happen often so how can we get over our “issues” with asking for help? 

1.       Serving others in need provides a greater appreciation for one’s own health and blessings. Denying others this opportunity would make them miss out on a wonderful character building experience.

2.       If we do not open up our lives to others, they will not gain a greater understanding of an empathy for those with invisible chronic illnesses.

3.       When we disregard an offer for help, the only person we are “punishing” is ourselves.

4.       If they see us socializing one day and calling for help the next, this provides an opportunity to share how chronic invisible illness works. We have both good and bad, and we can’t predict which days will be which.  We shouldn’t feel guilty if we genuinely need assistance.

5.       God is glorified when we humble ourselves and admit we can’t do everything in our own strength.  He is also glorified when friends give their time to serve one another.
My friends and their two little girls came over, brought supper, cleaned my house and played with my daughter. It was a good learning opportunity for their girls to learn about caring for others. Even with these things in mind, it’s never easy to pick up the phone and ask for help, no matter how close the relationship.  But it’s never too late to try. Hopefully the more we accept offers for help and allow others into our life of chronic invisible illness, “call me if you need anything” will become, “hey, I’ve got some time on Friday, can I come help you with your housework”.


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