How to Step Up and Be the Village

We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village.” Each of us is quick to offer our help to friends and family, oftentimes asking what we can do to help — with new babies, with school pickups, with watering plants while someone is on vacation. But sometimes that offer of help takes a more serious turn.

I recently watched as a friend was diagnosed with a life-altering disease. One that will affect her daily life, which trickles down to her husband and children’s lifestyle. Although she has handled this with dignity, grace and unbelievable humor, I still see fear and pain in her eyes. I mentioned to her that she has a village, and to heavily rely on it. Most of us know we have friends and family to turn to, but oftentimes, we fear having to take that turn.

Sure, we do not want to inconvenience anyone, ever. Moreover, we truly are scared to admit we are losing a part of our independence, whether it be temporarily or for the long term. The fear is more within ourselves and admitting that help is necessary than it is about said inconvenience. So, exactly what does it mean to be a part of a village? Well, it means to act not ask. Just do.

Don’t offer to make a meal; cook it and drop it off. Don’t offer your carpool services; ask which days someone is scheduled and schedule yourself for the open days. When you go for a visit, never come empty handed. Bring flowers to make your friend smile, bring coffee to relax the nervous and exhausted family. Bring them lunch — chances are they have a stocked freezer for food. Start a meal train, send it to whoever you can and ask others to keep passing it on. Bring a cooler by the house and leave it on the front porch so that meal train participants can leave their meals there. Don’t think sweets; think nourishment. Stop at the grocery store and stock up on fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget the kids — bring busy work: coloring books, arts and crafts, a new puzzle. Medical issues in parents alter the lives of the children, too, and they’re just as much the village as Mom and Dad.

When you visit, don’t just sit on the couch; be the first to jump up to handle things when they pop up. Wash the dishes; throw in a load of laundry. Set the table for the next meal. Make their beds. Don’t ask, just do. We all will say no — that’s how moms are. But do what you know will not make your loved ones feel uncomfortable, just handle what you can. When we say it takes a village, what we mean is, we’re all in this together. A village is more than a support system — it’s an extended family. It’s someone saying: I see you, I hear you, I know you’re hurting. I cannot feel what you’re feeling, but I can make other things within your environment seem less overwhelming.

What advice do you have for stepping up when a friend needs a true village?Jennifer

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  1. I love this and it’s so true. When you ask, it’s easy for the person to say ‘no no it’s OK’ so instead to just do is so much better. We visit an uncle in poor health regularly and we are probably in the habit of asking ‘is there anything we can do’ – next time, I’m going to look around and just do it. Thanks for this, and I’m sure your friend really appreciates you.