A friend contacted me last spring, asking for ideas. Margaret wanted to reach out to a family in need. She didn’t know them well but had heard the family’s grandmother had a sudden, massive stroke. They would likely be at her bedside for days afterwards, tending to her.
There weren’t any problems that Margaret could resolve. There wasn’t any need for a get-well gift.
What sentiment can we offer those who are just sitting alongside someone, waiting, caring? How do we show concern without taking up their precious time and shifting focus onto ourselves? As Margaret wrote,
In particular, how to reach out in ways that will actually lift and encourage those in the trenches, without risking intruding and sapping their energy?
As we brainstormed things she could do, my mind went back to my own long vigils in the hospital beside my husband.
My brother’s wife is experienced with hospitalizations, since juvenile diabetes has hit her family hard. She is also one of those people who pay attention to practical needs. The day she arrived in the ICU and handed me a gift bag as I sat beside my husband, I didn’t understand at first. I set it aside. I was used to accepting cards and such for my husband; I hoped he would wake to open them one day soon. When she explained that this bag was for me, I was confused — and then I was touched. That was the first blessing that had arrived just for me.
Of course, my sister-in-law knew what to include in a bag just for me. However, as Margaret pointed out, this is a gesture that could be extended to almost anyone, whether we are close to them or not:
I think I would like to make for myself a checklist of inexpensive but useful items to quickly assemble in a care package, and just drop it off at the hospital the 2nd or 3rd day after learning of someone in a crisis situation like that. Thinking of when the family members might be growing weary.
What an excellent idea. Keeping a list on hand could help us think quickly and not let the opportunity for blessing someone pass us by, as so often happens in our busy lives.
If you are the sort who enjoys blessing others by bringing something tangible, then here is the start of a checklist, a resource to make that effort easier for you to accomplish. This list is built from thoughtful gifts I received during my husband’s illness as well as further brainstorming with Margaret. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below.
- A small tablet
- A reliable pen or a package of yellow mechanical pencils
- A word-find or puzzle book
- An inexpensive novel you have enjoyed. Or, a magazine — something tranquil and outside of typical waiting room fare (perhaps nature, travel, photography, chess)
- A small encouragement such as a personal note or a set of cards with Scriptures, poems, or other inspirational messages
- A nice bottle of water, teabags, or another favorite beverage
- Breath mints, Vitamin C lozenges, or other long-lasting candies
- Chocolate or other sweets
- Applesauce, raisins, craisins, or other packaged fruit
- Granola bars, trail mix, nuts, seeds, or another salty snack
- Several sturdy, resealable bags for any perishables
- A small gift card for the medical center cafeteria, a nearby place to eat, or fast food (a source of inexpensive coffee or ice cream in almost any town); an envelope of small bills for vending is another option
- A transportation gift such as parking passes, a gas card, a roll of quarters, Lyft/Uber gift cards, or your own handwritten commitment to provide a ride home
- A small tube of heavy-duty hand lotion (hospitals are dry)
- Lip balm
- A decent brand of tissues (hospital brands can feel like plywood)
- A small package of wet wipes (name brands tend to be thicker)
- A toothbrush and mini-toothpaste, stored in a sturdy, resealable bag
- Cozy socks, hair ties, nail polish, a stress/fidget toy, or other relevant special touches
- Small, reusable tote bag for keeping everything together; zipper closure is a bonus
A long list like this is ideally explored well in advance of any needs coming up, giving you time to think through what you might do in the future. You would then be prepared to take action whenever you noticed someone who was facing a challenge. Of course, no one will want you to bring all 20 things; glance through the list and circle your favorites for future reference.
As always, this is just one form of blessing to explore — a practical and encouraging idea that may be especially useful if you are predisposed to arriving with something in hand when you hear of someone who is hurting.
For some of us, “What can I bring?” is the first thought that comes to mind when we hear of a need. A gift bag of comfort items can be a blessing prepared in advance.
If you’d like a free, downloadable checklist to work with,
Blog #9 Comments: Have you found a perfect little gift that we can add to the list, one that can be delivered to even an anonymous someone?