We Need You To Run Errands
I have another practical one for you today. Errand-running. It really does help.
Have you ever noticed how most of us are running at full capacity all of the time?
We have our day jobs, and our side hustles. We have the volunteer work that we love, and the “volun-told” work that we do because it’s easier than saying no to that enthusiastic coworker or auntie. We have our kids’ school drop offs, and spirit days, and extracurriculars, and playdates. We have shopping, and banking, and dentist appointments, and fitness classes. Our calendars are always full, and we always reply, “busy” when friends say “How have you been?”
Is it any wonder that things like household chores get dropped when a major life event happens? There is simply no room for it without dropping other things.
Some things can be dropped for the short-term and there is no harm. Missing silly sock spirit day isn’t going to ruin anyone’s life. Missing a rent or mortgage payment, however, just might. That’s why helping with errands can be such a lifesaver for your friend in need.
Many years ago, I read a blog post about how to help families who have just had a new baby.1 The author presented a rule of her own making called the “Bring Something, Take Something” Rule.
The Bring Something, Take Something rule is simply this: when visiting someone who has a new baby, bring something with you to help them, and take something with you (and off their hands) when you leave.
- A Hot Meal
- An Item from the store Example: I’m on my way. Do you need anything?
- Bring in their mail from the box
- Bring in the newspaper from the curb
- Out the garbage
- Out the recycling
- A letter/paid bill to the Post Office
- Take their pet for a quick walk before you leave
I quite liked this rule, so I applied it to much more than just new babies.
Last winter, a friend broke her leg and her wrist in an accident. Making meals was hard for her to do with an entire side of her body out of commission, so a crew of friends from the church began delivering hot meals to her. As I pulled up her driveway on the evening of my turn, I noticed that her mailbox was so full it was overflowing. It was no trouble at all to stack the papers on top of the box of food I was carrying and bring them inside.
You should have seen her eyes light up when she saw it! “Oh thank you,” she gushed, “I’ve been needing to get it, but was so afraid that I would fall on the ice with my crutches!”
Simple. Easy. No time at all. But it made an impact.
Here are a few more ideas that I try to incorporate as I help others:
- Bring a freezer meal. (Cook extra for your family one night, and wrap up the leftovers in a tin foil pan.)
- Bring fresh baking when you are baking already, or fresh fruit when you have just gone berry-picking.
- Raking leaves? Do your neighbor’s yard too!
- Shoveling snow? Carry on down the sidewalk.
- Stopping by someone’s home? Roll the empty garbage can back up the driveway.
- Driving your kids to sports or dance? Offer to pick up their friend in the same class. You’re going anyway!
- Offer to drive your friend to appointments and sit with them in waiting rooms so they don’t have to be alone.
- Pick up their pre-ordered groceries, take-out, or pharmacy order. Keep in mind that smaller communities do not have access to all of the wonderful apps like Door Dash, and/or that some families cannot afford to use them. You can be the app!
Sparing someone the trouble of routine chores and errands matters more than you may ever know.
One time when I was pregnant with our second born, our babysitter washed up all of the dishes that had been piling up in my sink. I could have kissed her! I was feeling tired, discouraged, upset at myself for not being able to do it all, and guilty for not being the wife and mom I wanted to be, when suddenly a thing that had been weighing me down was just gone. Gone! This small act of kindness let me lay down that evening and rest instead of pushing through. It saved my mental health that day.
Those of us struggling with mental health issues really need this kind of care. For us, the amount of energy it takes to go out and face the world can be absolutely crushing. I know. I have spent hours psyching myself up for a 10 minute errand because it felt like the biggest, scariest thing in the world.
That’s why, when I’m feeling well, I like pay it forward by helping to carry the mental and emotional load for others. It doesn’t take a degree in psychiatry. It takes a few moments of my time.
Simply showing them that they aren’t facing life alone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a mentally ill friend.
Anyone can do this.
You can do this.
Caring for others by doing simple errands and chores is easy. There is one catch though.
Remember what I said earlier about running at full capacity? The catch is, if you really want to encourage and help others, you need to NOT run at full capacity.
There needs to be wiggle room in your life, or you will never help someone in this way.
What if I had another appointment booked only 5 minutes after dropping off the meal to my friend? Would I have noticed the overflowing mailbox, or would I have been distracted by the next item on my mental checklist?
What if I scheduled back to back lessons for my children every night of the week? There wouldn’t be enough time to pick up someone else’s child.
What if I never had an evening off? When would I bake someone muffins for someone or write that “Thinking of You” note?
If you want to bless others, you need to make a little room.
Saying “no” to every obligation (even good ones, like volunteering) will free you up to say “yes” when the random opportunities to help someone cross your path. Personally, I would rather be known as the friend who showed up when no one else did than be known as the woman who does it all.
Make a little room in your life to bring something, take something, do something. Actions speak louder than words ever will, and showing someone you care will always mean more than just telling them.
1. I forget the author’s name, and cannot find the article again, but if the powers of internet networking can help me here, I’d love to give credit where credit is due!
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