“Babe, we need to go to the emergency room. NOW.”
It was 11:30 at night and the kids had been in bed for hours. I could see by the pain on his face that this was serious and “suck it up, Buttercup” was not an option. We needed to leave immediately, but how? How do you just up and leave your house at the drop of a hat when there are three kids depending on you?
Just then, my neighbor commented on a previous post of mine on Facebook so I knew she was awake. I called her, apologized profusely, and asked if there was any way she could come over and sit at our house while I brought my husband to the ER. She didn’t even hesitate and was at our door within minutes.
When I finally arrived back home at 4:00 am, without my husband by my side, she was still there — wide awake because she was too concerned for us. But all I felt was the guilt and worry of being a burden, of inconveniencing her.
I spent the next five days driving to the hospital to sit at my husband’s bedside while my kids were at school and then driving back to pick them up, order pizza for the third time in as many days, and leave them in the capable hands of my babysitter, my mom, or my sister while I went back to the hospital.
I worried I would have to cancel my son’s birthday birthday party, so I put out a call on Facebook that anyone who wanted to help was welcome to show up that night and pitch in. Ten people showed up, two of whom I had never even met, armed with glue guns, paint and folding tables. Together, we built Hogwarts in only two hours and my son was still able to enjoy the birthday party he had dreamed about for a year.
Our freezer filled with food.
My laundry was folded.
Coffee was “on the house.”
Gas cards appeared in my mailbox.
New bags of dog food were left on our front porch.
Money was delivered to me anonymously.
I remember being a new mom and living my life in a silo. I was afraid that sharing my struggles and fears would make me look weak and incapable. Despite being too tired to cook, clean, shower, or breathe, I was determined to prove that I could do this on my own. Looking back on it now, I can see how foolish this was. Never again will I live my life so closed off, so unwilling to let myself be vulnerable. When we take the risk of allowing others to see our authentic selves, we give them the chance to meet us there.
Community is created for such a time as this.
A dear friend of mine stood at the foot of my husband’s hospital bed in her scrubs, laughing at the joke he had just made and I felt the burning of the tears reaching my eyes as I realized just how deeply blessed we are. As if reading my mind, my husband said, “Thank God we have so many amazing friends.”
As hard as it was at first to admit I needed help, I have finally come to understand that agreeing to let others help you is just as much about allowing them the opportunity to serve as it is about you humbling yourself enough to accept it. And servant friendships? Those are the ones that go beyond Facebook birthdays.
Can I encourage you today to invest in your community? Stepping a little outside your comfort zone could be precisely the thing that gives someone that breath of fresh air she is dying for. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Think of someone who has been through something tough lately and send her a quick text to check and see how she is. I would even challenge you to reach out to someone you may not even be super-close with, even if it means sending a Facebook message because you don’t have her phone number.
- Know someone who has a new baby at home? Drop off a bag or basket of diapers, wipes and a Target gift card. Don’t even bother to ask “do you need anything?” Just go for it.
- Write a thank you note. Think of something someone has done for you recently that has encouraged you, made your life just a little easier, or made you feel more understood and write a hand-written note to thank them. The time and effort you put in to sincere gratitude is never wasted.
- The next time you and a girlfriend get together for a playdate, talk about something other than the kids. Even if you get interrupted by diaper changes or tantrums, the effort you put in to taking the conversation to the next level will not be lost on her.
- Help others and when the time comes where you find yourself in a situation where you need the help, don’t be too proud to accept it. Allow others to come around you and sustain you. Lean on your tribe and they will carry you through.
Thank you a million times over to everyone who has supported our family in the last couple weeks, especially as my husband found himself in the hospital with the threat of renal failure hanging over his head. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude.