Newton Cowan, Transitional Director of Pastoral Care

Let me know if you need anything. Ever spoken these words to an individual or a family at a time of loss or illness? I know I have. And while I genuinely mean it, let me offer an alternative perspective.

When we, and I do mean we (not like when I was younger and my mom would say we need to mow the grass, there was no we) speak these words we are placing the responsibility back on the person or family to have to think of something and even harder for them to pick up the phone and say, I need ____.

Have you been the recipient of these words, let me know if you need anything?  How did you receive it?

Several years ago, Greensboro’s One City, One Book read was The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. A fascinating read about her journey with cancer. Nina died and her husband spoke to groups around Greensboro about their journey. There were two points that I thought were very profound.

First, that lots of people said if you need anything let me/us know. He explained how he felt like this was almost a burden. He said that what mattered most were the ones who just did something. The person who mowed his grass every week for several weeks, the neighbor who brought new shoes for their children the day before the first day of school. The ones who ran errands and brought meals, wrote notes, prayed.

We often feel helpless when loss occurs or a person is journeying through an illness. So here are a few suggestions. This is not a complete list and I would love to hear from you about some things you have found helpful.

  1. Pray for the person/family.
  2. Send a note with a favorite verse or a thought for the day; this let’s them know they are not forgotten.
  3. Say to the person/family I would like to bring you dinner on ___ or we have folks who will bring you dinner ever Monday for a month.
  4. The yard needs to be mowed, either do it or coordinate with someone else.
  5. Leave cookies and note at the door.
  6. Gift card(s) for gas or a restaurant close to them.

I think you get the idea. Illness and loss can be very isolating because we assume others are stepping up. What may seem little is not little, it matters greatly. We are all in this together. Let us be active participants in caring for our church community and our larger community.

So the second thing that Nina’s husband shared is this, that he sees care as concentric circles. The first circle is the person who is ill. The person leans on the folks in the second circle, close family/friends, then those folks need people to lean on. You get the idea. Somewhere in these circles we the church are called to care for each other and our neighbors, whomever they may be.

I have witnessed and been a recipient of the care of this congregation. Thanks for all you have done and are doing. Be mindful the next time you want to say the words, if you need anything let me know…..