“Call me if you need anything.”
It is an incredibly frustrating, well-meaning phrase that we parents of complex kids hear all too often. Yet, we rarely do pick up that phone to call. Sometimes it is because it just feels too awkward. Other times, we’re afraid of hearing “no.” But there can be another reason that we don’t call, besides feeling humiliated.
Speaking with numerous special needs parents I have served over the years, this topic has come up again and again. The larger problem mothers and fathers discuss with me is that our heads are so full with the urgent matters of caring for our high-needs children, that we don’t know how to respond when other well-intentioned people ask how they can help. We know we need help. We would love to have help. But chaos abounds, our brains are scrambled, and we couldn’t begin to tell you where to start.
One mom I know recently made the profound-yet-simple statement, “Just look around! Do you see the dirty pile of dishes in my sink? That’s where you could start to help me.”
Isn’t it strange how church-goers would rather judge than step into someone’s mess? It is so much easier to offer aid, become indignant that the offer was never taken up, and shake ones head at perceptions of substandard housekeeping. Yet, lovingly stepping into the messy chaos of our stressful lives is exactly what parents like us need. Somehow, when we are in the most difficult parts of the journey with our children, we don’t even realize how great it would be to have someone figure out for us what is needed in our situation. What a relief it would be to have someone observe one of the areas where we are currently falling behind, and just pick up the reins that crisis ripped out of our hands! Whether it be a recent hospital stay, ongoing problems at school, behavioral dysregulation because of medication changes, or just an inexplicably difficult season in our lifetime journey, it would be such an incredible blessing for someone to just open their eyes, put themselves in our shoes, and see our need without us having to spell it out for them. Instead of judging us for a disorganized house or dirty car, maybe someone could actually care enough to just lift a hand to help us with it. Can you just imagine what it would be like to have somebody see the clean laundry that we were fortunate enough to merely wash and begin folding it for us?
In Galatians 5:13-14, Paul admonishes this fledgling church, “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” (MSG)
What freedom we offer a struggling caregiver when we simply open our eyes, identify the need, and serve!
It adds an extra layer of care when those of use who have been down this road before offer a helping hand. We know like no one else what it feels like to be on this road. Not only are parents raising kids with challenges and extra needs equipped to offer compassionate empathy, we are also able to identify needs that perhaps the average person doesn’t see.
We are blessed to be a blessing. It is way too easy for parents craving normalcy to leave special needs in the dust once our own child is grown or stabilized. Instead, I would challenge each of us to look around and lend a helping hand to families facing the same struggles. That is true Christianity at its best!