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Last night, I came unraveled.  I learned of another friend facing a battle with cancer.  No matter how much time passes, news like this always brings me to my knees.  It’s like opening an old wound that you’ve done your best not to pick at despite its itchy presence.  I’m immediately taken back to a place filled with uncertainty, fear and all too familiar dread.

Yet, it also reminds me of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown.  It reminds me of hope and faith and the importance of showing up.  So many people showed up whenever I felt darkness creeping in.  Long time friends, new friends, neighbors, cousins, family members, and even complete strangers stood firm and spoke encouragement back into my soul.  They reminded me to be brave.  There was no one magical thing that made it all perfect.  Instead, it was a tapestry of human love, affirmation, and kindness that wove its way into my heart and provided me a support net.

So here I sit, wondering what purpose God could have in my life to position me right here, right now, as a survivor trying to figure out how best to support a friend.  Before my diagnosis, I never knew what to say and was always afraid I’d say the wrong thing.  However, here’s what I have learned about the trials of life:  You do not have to be perfect or do/say the perfect thing.  You just need to follow the nudge you feel in your heart.  You only need to remember that doing something is better than doing nothing.

It doesn’t take much to give much.  Maybe you are in a position to offer financial assistance but maybe you’re not.  You do not have to make BIG contributions to help.  I learned there are so many little ways you can make an impact:

  • you can give of your time–sitting with a friend during their appointments, chemo, or just on the couch.  Facing medical appointments alone can be overwhelming so having a buddy is very helpful.
  • you can send cards, texts and notes just so the person struggling knows they are never alone.  Uplifting words can be the enriching balm at exactly the right moment.  A simple “I’m thinking of you.  You are strong.” message can go a long way in building reassurance.
  • organize a group of friends to bring meals.  Oh, how I love a community that rallies around a friend.
  • if they have kids, offer to help watch them.  This was a BIG help to me when I had to fit my radiation appointments into a busy “mom” day.

Whatever the struggle–cancer, addiction, depression, illness, loss, or divorce, we all just want to know we are not alone.  So often we are afraid to ask how things are going for fear we’ll upset our friend in need.  I can tell you unequivocally that I appreciated knowing others were concerned about me.  The moments of avoiding the elephant in the room were far more hurtful to my spirit.  Walking with someone through a difficult time can make such a huge difference on how he or she deal with their challenges.  Trust that your presence is enough. So just be there and listen.   You do not even have to say the right thing.  Just be still and say “I’m here.”  Just show up.

Most importantly, keep showing up.  Sometimes, we need to know we have an army with us for the long haul.  Call, text, send cards, and pray.  Be a blessing and spread light like a beacon in the storm.  We can do so much to brighten the world.  Us. You and me–everyday, normal people.  We can do amazing things.

Just show up.

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