Saturday, November 10, 2007

Accepting Freely Offered Help With Grace

I think one of the hardest parts for me about being sick is that I can't do all the stuff I want and need to do by myself anymore.

I need help. And I've never been good at asking for it, nor at accepting it. But I'm learning.

Most of the burden falls on Scott, who should win the Olympic gold medals for husbands and daddies. Both our families have also tried to help as best they can.

But that's the definition of family and good friends, right? People who help you when you need it, whether you ask for it or not.

But there's also been so much help from people outside my immediate circle.

First there was the support services folks from my MOMS Club chapter, who organized meals for us from volunteers. Many of these women who brought us food (that usually lasted for 2-3 meals, not just one!) were women I barely knew or even had never met face-to-face. But that didn't matter to them. I was a member of the club in need, and that's all that mattered. Many of them also took time to stay and chat if they could.

Ironically, shortly before I got sick, I had started discussing with the membership director at our synagogue, Congregation Neveh Shalom, that we were having trouble forging connections and would like to find new ways to get involved. We liked the clergy and staff, but we had trouble connecting with other people beyond just a small handful.

When they learned I was so sick, they reached out by phone and in personal visits. Cantor Linda Shivers made a personal visit to our home to sing Kol Nidre to me for Yom Kippur because I was too sick to go to High Holy Day services. That was so amazing -- this incredible soloist singing in a private concert in our living room! Our new Associate Rabbi Brad Greenstein made a personal visit just days after his daughter, his first child, was born. (Boy, he looked more tired than I felt!!) Several members we didn't know previously reached out too -- Barbara Barde and Jenn Knudsen in particular -- and have gone out of their to help us out. Another woman offered her young daughter's services for free babysitting. And Jan Skolnik, the director of the synagogue's high-in-demand, wait-listed pre-school, offered to hold Ellie's place for the entire first term (at no cost to us) to give me a chance to get better. Wow!

I also have a large "playgroup" of women who all met when our children were infants at a local hospital's "new moms" group. Our group has just continued to grow as our kids grow, and we maintain a Yahoo list to keep in touch and organize weekly playgroups at various homes and venues. A bunch of the moms have their second babies now! One of the women, Kristi Buxton, organized a meal train program both for me and for all the moms with newborns in the group, and we received at least one meal per week for three months. Wow! Sure, I'd always liked Kristi when our paths crossed, but we weren't close friends. Now I feel like I know her so much better, and she definitely knows me a lot better too! And that's true of so many of moms in that group, who have made time to cook for us and (even more importantly to me) made a point of visiting for a little while when they dropped off the food to help alleviate the isolation I feel stuck sick at home all the time.

And thanks to my other playgroup, which was an offshoot from my MOMS Club chapter but is no longer officially affiliated with it, who unanimously agreed to change our occasional Girls Nights Out into Girls Nights In so that I can attend and feel like a regular person with a social life once a month. Not only that, but they all volunteer to either pick me up or take me home so I can attend without having to suffer without pain medication. (I feel very strongly about never driving on narcotic pain killers.)

And then there's all the people -- some of whom I only know via the Internet -- who have put me in touch with someone they know who also is suffering from a chronic illness like Lupus. These FOFs (friends of friends) make time to email me and tell me their stories of the long path to a diagnosis and treatments that work. And they keep in touch, providing me with a support group of sorts.

Oh, and then in a category by herself is our friend Bari Gilbert, who was like 3 days away from giving birth and already had three little ones at home. Bari spent the last couple days before delivering calling daycare centers for me to help us find a good place for Ellie. (Bari's just amazing. A week after her c-section, she was hosting a birthday party for her 3-year-old daughter at a neighborhood park. I wasn't there, but Scott says he didn't see her sit down once in the 90 minutes he and Ellie were there. Wow!!)

It's just mind-boggling!

And with all that these people are doing for me, I just have to learn how to say "yes, thank you!" more often. And accept gracefully their kind offers, particularly when they make it clear that helping us is something they want to do.

And I am learning. When Jenn K. emailed to say she was bringing us a meal next Tuesday and to let her know if the day/time was bad but that she was bringing a meal -- I simply said thank you and how much I'd look forward to seeing her again.

Wow, I probably should have saved this post for a Thanksgiving post since I'm giving so much thanks to all the people who care enough to reach out to help me and my family. :) But hey, I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty of people I should be mentioning so maybe Thanksgiving Day will be Part Two of this post.

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