Caring creatively

We spent time in class yesterday thinking about mental illness and how our churches are going at caring for those who struggle.

Someone made the comment that casseroles are like a bunch of flowers. It’s a nice gesture, but often unnecessary. We want to be able to give something to show we care, so we cook up a whole heap of freezer meals, dump them at the doorstep and think we’ve done our part. We might not even knock on the door for fear we’ll get sucked into a bottomless pit.

She then went on to talk more generally about how we care for those in need, and again questioned whether a casserole really does the trick. Sure, the thought is nice, but it wasn’t as if her or her husband couldn’t boil an egg, or open a can of baked beans once their baby arrived.

We need to be more creative.


7 thoughts on “Caring creatively

  1. Karen says:

    I agree on the casserole thing. I’ll be watching to see if others have any suggestions. I like cooking, I don’t mind making a casserole but like you, I’m not sure that’s always what’s called for. And what about people who haven’t had babies or come out of hospital but who are still struggling?
    One thing I have thought about doing is infant massage sessions with a couple of new mums at church, since I have skills in this area. I thought maybe that would be a way of having a chat about how things are going in a non-threatening kind of way.
    I also gave that book “Just the Two of Us” to my friend who has been struggling with secondary infertility and she caught up with me later to say how grateful she was.
    But I would love to hear what others think…and do…

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Karen,

      “And what about people who haven’t had babies or come out of hospital but who are still struggling?”

      That’s the question, isn’t it? There are plenty of people out there be it with a new bub, a chronic illness or who are are just generally run-down. I’m not against making casseroles, and will probably do so again if that’s what my friend in need asks for, but often I think some of the most helpful things can be doing the little stuff that needs to be done in order to keep life running. Things like dropping their kids off at kids club or swimming lessons, posting the letters, picking up the groceries etc. I think the infant massage sounds like a great idea too, and like you say, a good chance to converse too.

      I’m glad the book was helpful, and I’m glad you suggested it to your friend. I’ve been recommending it non-stop.

  2. Nathan says:

    I found giving meals to non-Christian friends, who had no expectations, was a tremendous way to care for them and to show love. But I wonder if it’s more a result of doing something unexpected than as a result of providing a meal that they would have been able to source elsewhere.

    I think there’s something nice about showing that you’ve thought and cared enough about an individual that you went out of your way to make them a meal.

    But I’m wondering if we’ve got to the stage in Christian culture where it’s a token gesture.

  3. Nathan says:

    I wonder if we become a bit desensitised to loving acts within the church because we kind of expect to get a meal when we have a significantly disruptive event in our lives – so being creatively caring means finding something that other people aren’t doing in order to have the greatest impact.

    • sarahcowling says:

      Hi Nathan,

      Sorry that your comments didn’t come up, it’s now sorted I think, and I will keep checking every now and then to see if they appear in spam (that is, if you keep commenting!)

      I also think it’s nice preparing a meal for someone, and like I said, I’ll keep on making them if that’s what’s needed. I reckon you’re onto something though, with Christians becoming desensitised to loving acts, because in most cases these acts are a given. We know that when things are a bit tough there’ll be someone making up a meal roster or taking on our roles at church without even having to ask us. They’ve got our backs. This is a good thing, knowing that our Christian family is looking out for us. But because the ‘loving acts’ machine kicks into gear (the good machine that it is), people tend not to put a lot of thought into what these acts should look like.

      My ongoing and perhaps overarching question is how do we care for those whose struggles are not so visible (e.g. mental illness, financial difficulties, infertility)? Proactivity is needed in the first place, to suss out how people are really going, but also making the effort to work out what is actually most helpful in their particular situation.

  4. Nathan says:

    The spam thing probably shouldn’t happen again – it seems WordPress’s universal spam filter had decided comments linked to my blog were spam.

    I reckon there’s a lot to be said for a culture of random acts of kind words. Some of the most encouraging moments I’ve had personally, and my family have had in ministry, have been unexpected letters from people that are encouraging and thankful. I wonder if that’s just as true for people outside of ministry. Just being noticed, appreciated, and loved, speaks volumes.

    Of your examples the mental illness and infertility ones are probably (though I’m no expert) helped through people being intentionally mindful of the trial and being prepared to not just act as though everything is ok all the time… The financial difficulties one is something that I think is modeled in the NT that we seem to have lost a little bit of direction on. There’s a bit of a class divide in our churches that would not really have manifested itself without comment in the early church.

    Thanks for the thought provoking. Hope you guys are going ok leading into exam season.

  5. Karen says:

    Nathan, thanks for your thoughts. Very helpful. I know with our friends who’ve struggled with infertility that I was feeling like I was drifting into the state of acting like everything was OK all the time, it was probably that (and Sarah’s book review!) that made me decide to do something a bit more pro-active to help them out.
    I like the concept of a “culture of random acts of kind words.” I would add “and deeds” to the end of that.
    Re the financial difficulties question, our church has given money to families that we know are struggling financially and/or with chronic illness/disability. Other church members have also helped out practically with basic cooking lessons and living skills/money management suggestions for a teenage girl whose Dad (a single Dad at the time) was quite unwell.
    Thanks again guys for the discussion!

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