When family, friends, or neighbors are going through a difficult time, I sometimes feel at a loss for how I can help. When I don’t know what to do or what to say, my impulse is to just avoid the subject at all costs as if me bringing “it” up is going to make matters worse.
Any one of us who has been through a difficult loss, illness, or season knows the truth: our pain, grief, or suffering is never very far from our minds. When a friend or neighbor acknowledges the truth of what’s happening, it doesn’t isolate us, it validates our experience and makes us feel seen and heard.
So what can we do, when we’re on the other side of suffering, witnessing someone else’s need? Here are some care package ideas that are both simple and sustainable. These small acts of kindness will be sure to help someone who might be feeling alone feel seen and loved by you and by the Creator of the Universe, who inspires great acts of kindness in each of us.
Take Them a Meal… in a Real Bowl
When I was on bed rest for a third of my pregnancy, trying to keep my daughter from making her debut too early, my husband’s colleagues put together a meal rotation for us so that it was one less thing to worry about. One of the couples who prepared food for us packaged a salad in a big rainbow painted ceramic bowl.
“Don’t worry about returning that,” she said. “I get bowls from Goodwill for just this purpose.”
Fifteen years later, I washed the bowl she gave me and remembered again, for the 100th time, her kindness and her warmth, even though I haven’t seen her in nearly as long as my daughter has been alive. The dish brings me joy and reminds me of how blessed I was by all of the people who took the time to prepare a meal for our small family during that season.
Buying used bowls and containers that have been donated to the local thrift store also reduces our plastic consumption and puts the love back into these abandoned ceramics, even if they’re maybe out of style or funny. That just adds to the charm.
Someone once made us a delicious pot of soup and included a recipe card with instructions for how to make it, and now, any time I make that dish, I’m reminded again of their love and kindness.
If you like to organize such things for friends and family, TakeThemAMeal.com is a terrific site for coordinating a meal rotation for someone in your community. They make it easy to list food preferences, a schedule, drop-off instructions, and more so that you can invite others to help out.
Feel Better Care Packages… in Reusable Grocery Bags
As COVID cases surge across the country and as we approach flu season, who doesn’t need a little pick-me-up when you’re feeling under the weather? Put together a gift package of sports drinks, like Gatorade or Powerade, tea bags, and chicken noodle soup mix to deliver comfort to someone who could use it. Besides the practical, consider incorporating comfort items like a candle, bath salts, lotions, an adult coloring book, puzzle, or other items that can warm the soul along with comforts that take care of the body.
Over-the-counter medications can add up, too, so if you have some extra change in your pocket, consider buying a gift card to the local pharmacy to help someone out with their OTC care.
While you’re at the store, pick up a few reusable grocery bags to use as gift bags. Your friend can hang onto the bag long after they’re feeling better and put it to good use for future trips to the store.
New Baby Blessings… Wrapped in Love
The days and weeks after a new baby is born are long, and caring for a newborn can get expensive. Bless that new mother or father with a package of essentials to care for their baby and maybe even something to care for themselves! Ask what kind of formula or diapers the baby might need, bring them a meal, put together a basket of groceries (fresh produce or everything they need to make a meal on the run), or ask what their favorite takeout place is.
Can you tell that food is one of my love languages?
You can wrap your gift in love using a soft blanket as a gift bag (gather the edges around your gift and tie it closed with a string) or put your baby essentials into a wicker basket (thrift stores usually have loads of these sitting around). Creative packaging that is functional and unique does more than set your gift apart; it can also be a more sustainable choice than wrapping paper, gift bags, and tissue paper.
Send Prayer Cards… on Plantable Paper
In the age of text messages, social media, and email, it’s rare to receive a handwritten note or card in the mail. There’s nothing like pulling a pile of bills and junk mail out of the mailbox only to find a greeting card shaped envelope. Someone took the time to buy a card, write a note, find a stamp, and drop this in the mail. Someone is thinking of me.
Plantable Flower Seed Paper Cards from Little Green Paper Shop.
The Little Green Paper Shop on Etsy offers beautiful, simple, and plantable greeting cards that include wildflower seeds in the card’s material. Forget sending cut flowers, these cards will deliver long lasting delight as your friend plants your love and watches their garden grow.
The Gift of Time… Your Time
Sometimes the very best (and most sustainable) gift is the gift of your time and attention. Set aside your phone, bring a favorite beverage, and settle in next to your loved one on their couch. If they’re feeling up to it, invite them out for a hike at a local park or a walk around the neighborhood—fresh air and a stroll through nature is good for the soul. Talk, or don’t. Holding space with someone with no expectations is a gift in and of itself.
Shop with Purpose
Thoughtful trinkets and treasures deliver that same “they’re thinking of me” feeling every time someone sees or uses that gift. You can make double the impact by choosing to support vendors that give back to support a cause that matters to them. Fig & Oak, a gift shop in Ashland, Ohio, sells products with a purpose. You can order online from them, or seek out special and unique gifts from vendors like theirs, who have baked giving back into their business model.
Whatever approach you take, know that the thought truly does count. It’s our calling as followers of Christ: “Be kind and compassionate to one another,” (Ephesians 4:32) “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and “carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).