6 Creative and Practical Ways to Help


6 Creative and Practical Ways to Help

My life was forever changed on January 2, 2014 when we went in for my 20 week ultrasound for our third baby. We expected to hear what we heard with our other two healthy children. Instead, my husband and I were told that something was wrong with our baby boy's heart. A week later we got the diagnosis - Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Basically only half of our baby's heart had formed and he would require a series of 3 open heart surgeries to survive.

The months leading up to our baby's birth were some of the most difficult of my life. But in those months full of fear and uncertainty, something beautiful happened. We were overwhelmed (in the best possible way!) by all the support we received. I can never write down all that was done for us, and I can never even come close to repaying all the many people who have supported us so well. We are forever changed by the care and love we were given.

I wanted to write about the creative and practical ways we were helped for two reasons. First, I want to remember! I never want to forget all the ways people stepped up and genuinely helped us get through a hard and scary time. I want to recount to my older children, Katie and Ben, all the ways our community of friends came alongside us to carry us through a time that could have been isolating and racked with fear. I want John (who is now 20 months and thriving!) to know that his story inspired the EXTREME kindness and generosity of so many. Even before he was born, his story and life showed us love in ways we couldn't have known otherwise.

Second, I hope this list will inspire myself and others when we hear of people going through hard times. I want to be the kind of woman that moves toward another person in need, even when it's hard or I don't know what to say or do. That's what so many did for us and it was so amazing to witness. JUST BEING THERE blessed us so much. I hope when I hear of someone going through a trial, these ideas will come to mind, whether I'm super close to them or not.

1. Make prayer cards.

My dear friend, creator of TakeThemAMeal, who has done SO MUCH for us, asked me to write down our long term prayer requests. She then worked with another sweet friend from church who is a fabulous graphic designer to create prayer cards to give and send to family and friends near and far. They turned out beautifully. I loved addressing them, thinking of all the people from Maine to California who are keeping these tangible cards in their Bibles or on their refrigerators, praying for our family. What a gift.

2. Connect with someone who has gone through a similar situation and put together a care package.

This week, the sweet friend from church that I've mentioned a few times who sadly lost her dear little girl with a congenital heart defect 4 years ago, came over with more gifts than I can possibly list here. She made a list of things we could use based on her experience and some friends, mostly the ladies from our church, sprang into action. There were bags full of gift cards for dinners out in Charlottesville, many, many supplies for the baby, activities for the kids and lots of other thoughtful things that she wished she had or found useful when she was in the hospital with her little one. We are much better prepared because of this coordinated effort.

3. Offer to help with practical needs at home.

In the past week, we've had 3 women from church come to 1. play with the kids while I rested after a bad night at the ER 2. Help fold the laundry and figure out what I need to pack for the kids for the hospital and 3. help with some projects I needed to finish, as well as fix some of the little nagging things around the house that I have wanted done for a long time. I have enjoyed today so much more knowing that my laundry was done and we could leave at the drop of a hat if we needed to. It's so helpful to have another set of hands and someone to talk to while taking care of little things around the house.

4. Set up a "special delivery" calendar.

My dear Kristin set up a Google doc where people could sign up to send us something every day for the month of April. It was supposed to be a secret but I've learned some details. A few weeks ago I started getting suspicious. I said to Andrew, "We are getting something in the mail every single day!" Turns out, it wasn't a coincidence! It has been so encouraging to receive cards and special packages dropped off at our house each day. It's been a nice distraction and something for the kids and I to look forward to. Thanks to all who participated!

5. Offer to create an online giving page.

My lovely friend from our small group (my oh my I have a lot of amazing women in my life! Thank you Lord!) offered to set up a page where people could donate money to help with our upcoming medical costs. It was humbling for us to think about accepting money from friends and family at first. But we have been so so blessed by this effort. Our costs are covered for the foreseeable future and that frees us up to think solely about the care he needs and not be worried about how we're going to afford all that's ahead. She used YouCaring, which has no fees.

6. Just be there.

Your presence and prayers are what have mattered most to us. A simple text to say that you're thinking of us or an email to say you're praying for our family has lifted our spirits. There's no need to put great pressure on these interactions. What has meant the most is simply hearing that you're with us in what we're going through.

Read other recent articles by Maureen Witmer:

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Adina & Maureen
Adina & Maureen

Welcome! We're thrilled you stopped by. Our own joys and sorrows have taught us that a well-timed meal delivered by a friend is one of the best gifts imaginable. In this space, we share our favorite recipes to take to friends, meal-taking tips, and other ways to care for those who are dear to you.

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