Personal crisis brings out the troops, especially for the lucky few in our world. As someone who’s faced crisis—and is pretty sensitive—I’ve noticed a pecking order of aid.
The pecking order of aid is not an original thought. In the morass of blogs and articles I’ve read this past year, someone used a similar example. Feel free to post the piece if you know what I’m talking about.
Crisis is like a burning house. When fire hits, some flee, some rush in, some pick through rubble, and some help rebuild.
Each group is needed, including those who bail. There are obvious exceptions (family, for example) but during crisis no one wants an individual involved who’s unable to cope with the situation.
Those who rush in usually offer a flurry of prayers, meals, and encouragement. They are gifted in providing triage. Those who pick through the rubble walk faithfully beside and help sort through the crisis. And rebuilders are generally a tiny bunch, and sometimes it only includes Jesus (and He is enough, right?).
For me, life crisis has mostly taken the form of bouts of inexplicable fear, family troubles, existential and spiritual crisis, and one broken leg that almost did me in.
I have noticed that seemingly good friends flee or flake out, while others, mere acquaintances and casual friends, emerge as crisis champions and have become lifelong friends. After I broke my leg and melted down into a puddle of fear as my singleness crashed with a lack of mobility, Don and Heather Morgan rose up and took me into their home. They didn’t know how to help me combat fear, but they provided shelter, friendship, and lots of prayer. They rushed into the fire and also helped pick through the rubble.
I live with friends who have spent nearly 7 years in crisis with their mentally ill daughter. They struggle with the day-to-day, but also negotiating the hardship that arises from having a child with a sickness that doesn’t manifest physically (aka, people’s judgement / ignorance). Friends step up and provide triage after a particularly vicious period, a few pick through the rubble, and a smaller group help rebuild. At times, it’s a mighty army, and at other times, it’s a lonely few.
I witness this process regularly at hospice, too. I came alongside a husband and wife in their early 50s… the wife was in the last stages of ALS, a degenerative nerve disease that steals an individual’s ability to move. In its final stages, a person loses the ability to swallow, blink, and eventually succumbs to respiratory failure, while the mind stays sharp.
By the time I got to them, this couple just had one another, and a sister who lived two hours away. They did not have a faith community to lean on and friends had long ago scattered. My own sensitivity to warm bodies in crisis gave me insight into picking through the rubble. I watched TV with the wife, I swabbed her mouth, I made her laugh, I held her hand and prayed for her. I stood with the husband in the hallway as he cried, I made him cookies, I brought him meals, and I sat with his wife so he could attend a once a month support group. Boundaries in my hospice role prevented me from helping to rebuild. It is my hope that God brought people their way.
I walked through significant challenges this past weekend with my parents. I had friends on Facebook who bore my burden through prayer, offered wise counsel and kindness, and loved me through a difficult time. They provided needed triage. Some will be called to move forward with me, others will drop off—however, they’ll all forever remain close to my heart. They held me fast while my house burned.
It’s important to consider your role in a friend’s crisis. Good intentions not followed through with can be more hurtful than acknowledging your limitations and doing what you can.