I asked my friend how she was doing.
No, really, I said. How ARE you?
Her child had been sick — scary sick — and I could only imagine how scared and stressed and exhausted she must have felt. Though I’d offered help in various ways, she’d politely refused. As a matter of fact, I was at her house while she helped me with something. But still I longed to do something for her, to make her feel better in some way.
How are you, really?
She told me that she was okay, although not good. She admitted that when friends had asked her the same question at church the day before, she had tried to describe the anxiety and the fear she was experiencing, but they looked at her blankly. As if they had no idea what she was talking about. As if they’d never felt a little crazy themselves.
I hugged my friend and told her firmly — because I meant it deeply: If someone says they’ve never felt a little crazy, they are either lying or boring.
She laughed and thanked me for understanding. We hugged again, and I eventually walked out her front door.
When I think about my various friends and the crises we’ve walked through together — or watched each other face — over the years, I can’t help but think of the body of Christ.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
I have friends who love kids and will offer to watch other friends’ kids anytime an emergency or difficult situation comes up. I have friends who are handy and can fix things. I have friends who are great listeners and, when asked, can offer sound advice for most any situation. I have friends who are experts at making casseroles and driving moving trucks and folding a friend’s laundry without feeling awkward.
I’m not like those friends. Those aren’t my gifts. I make exactly one meal-to-go, I can count the number of times I’ve babysat friends’ kids one one hand, and I can definitely make laundry (or an offer to help) awkward.
But if you need someone who will understand when you feel a little crazy? Someone who’s felt anxiety and darkness, worry and panic? Someone who hears your metaphor for scary feelings and can do you one better — but won’t?
I’m your girl.
Different challenges call for different solutions, just like different personalities and relationships call for different approaches. Sometimes a friend needs tangible assistance – childcare, dinner in a box, a gift card to the grocery store. Sometimes she just needs encouragement – an email, a note in the mail, some flowers or her favorite drink from Sonic. And other times? She just needs to be heard, to be understood, to be held.
My friend felt crazy that day we talked at her front door – even more so because she hadn’t been given the understanding and acceptance we all crave. So I stopped offering her dinner. And I didn’t lie to her and say that her feelings and her situation weren’t overwhelming and even crazy. I just said that it’s okay to be crazy, that I’ve felt crazy before, that I loved her and her family no matter what.
Sometimes the best thing we can offer a friend is a soft place to land. So while some situations require moving boxes or gas money or a ride to church or a pan of brownies, sometimes our friends simply need us. They simply need us to be ourselves, to be available, to be. Just to be.