When someone we know has cancer or has a loved one with cancer, often we want to reach out with help and support. But how can we be sure the help we’re providing is what the person really needs?
The best way is simple but often overlooked: Just ask.
A good example of why this is important comes from an episode of the TV show Parenthood from a few years ago. One of the main characters, Christina, has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and two friends drop by to cheer her up and bring her a roasted chicken.
Christina goes to put the chicken away in the refrigerator—where there are four more chickens just like it, leaving barely any room for anything else.
These friends meant well, but because they made an assumption about what Christina needed—a chicken dinner—their help was not all that helpful. They could have done much more for Christina if they said:
“What can we do right now? Do you need any meals, or help with transportation, or someone to run errands—or something else? We’d really like to help.”
Then they could have acted based on Christina’s response—and helped in ways that Christina genuinely needed right then.
There’s a story in Cancer—Now What? that illustrates the benefits of asking about and sharing needs:
When someone you know is dealing with cancer—or any other life difficulty—take the time to ask what he or she needs, and possibly offer some suggestions of what you could do. That way, you’ll know you’re helping in a way the person will welcome and appreciate.
A Caring Tip by Joel Bretscher from Stephen Ministry