The Difference Between Offering to Help and Helping

Don’t wait for a military family member to reach out to you. Make the first move.

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Posted in , Apr 7, 2017

How to really help your friends.

Almost all of us are guilty of the following scenario: Someone talks about a problem, and we answer, “Be sure to give me a call if I can help.” I know I’ve said these very words in all sincerity.

But this well-intentioned phrase isn't really helpful at all. What we’ve done—without meaning to—is put the burden back on the person who needs the help.

I was on the receiving end of these kinds of offers of help when our son was in the military. Granted most of what I needed was moral support, but even then the burden of reaching out was mine. There were very few who took the initiative to reach out first and offer something tangible. 

Fortunately, I had one close friend who did more than just offer help. That particular day I thought I was going to crawl out of my skin. All I could focus on was our son and the possible danger he was facing. I wanted to get away from my thoughts, but couldn’t find a way to do it.

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At my lowest ebb, she called, “I know you must be going crazy.” She knew I hadn’t heard from our son in several weeks—a situation that drives any military mom nuts. “I think you need to get away from your worry. We’re going to have a girls night out.”

She’d already called a few of our mutual friends and arranged an impromptu dinner out. By coming and picking me up, she defeated the last excuse I had for sitting inside and dwelling on my fears. It was a great night—filled with laughter, friendship and good food. I hadn’t even known how much I needed that break until I was there. 

If she’d waited until I called her and asked for help . . . well . . . she’d still be waiting. After that experience, I decided I’d follow her example. Even now, whenever I see someone who is struggling, instead of asking them to let me know how I can help, I take a chance and suggest something I think they need.

Yes, I’ve been turned down and even guessed wrong at times. But you’d be amazed at how many people have taken me up on my offers. So stop asking someone to call if they need help, and offer something specific then and there. It’s how we can be the arms of love to a hurting world. 

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