A friend called, her voice filled with despair. Her dad’s cancer had returned and he was back in the hospital. I automatically responded, “What can I do to help?” She asked if I would keep her mom company at the hospital on Saturday morning so she could run her errands. I agreed and was glad I had the opportunity to visit her dad, as he died ten days later.

But the visit itself took a toll; my mom had died the year before and I found the hospital a stark reminder of what I’d lost. Since then, I’m more careful in how I offer my help so I won’t be doing tasks that I’d rather not do.

Many people are reluctant to help because they too find certain tasks uncomfortable. But when others face tough times, it’s important for us to help. So how do you find a way to make a difference that fits with your comfort zone?

I’ve learned that it’s not the grand gestures, but the simple things that often make a difference. Find one thing you like to do and make it your signature endeavor. Whether it’s a pot of soup, a vegetarian casserole that can sit in the refrigerator for a few days, a call before running your own errands to the pharmacy or hardware store to see if you can pick something up, or the delivery of a rotisserie chicken and a bag of salad after you do your own grocery shopping. What can you integrate into your own life and schedule that you can offer to do for someone else? And if it works, offer to do the same thing for everyone.

If all else fails, personal notes during and after a difficult time are always appreciated. So are phone calls and invitations. Your act of kindness can make the difference in moving someone through the healing process. And no doubt, your model of kindness will inspire others.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.


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