Today I am excited to introduce you to Maureen Witmer from the popular website, Take Them a Meal. Take Them a Meal is an incredible resource for people wanting to help coordinate meal plans for families and/or friends in need. In addition to their easy online meal sign-ups, Maureen and her friend, Adina, share their favorite recipes to take to friends, as well as tips on how to bless others during difficult times. Many of you know our story of being in the NICU for 100 days with our son, Jethro. God used the kindness of others to carry us through that challenging season. The post below has the most creative and meaningful ways you can help someone in their time of need! Take it away, Maureen!
This summer my husband and I had to do something no parent wants to do- say goodbye to our 5-year-old as he was wheeled away into surgery. This was the third time he’s undergone open heart surgery, and it never gets easier. The months leading up to the day and the day itself were filled with so many unknowns and fears. I’m so thankful to report that he was able to come home after an intense 10-day hospital stay and spent the rest of the summer recovering. He’s back to his spunky self and we couldn’t be more grateful!
Keep these suggestions in mind when you hear of a friend or loved one who has a planned stay or is suddenly admitted to the hospital. You can’t take away the hard days, but you can brighten them by showing your support and love.
If I had to point to the one thing that was most helpful for our son it would be this- opening one wrapped gift each day he was hospitalized. Friends from church got together and bought/made gifts that he could use and enjoy in his hospital bed. The gifts included books, a crocodile dentist game, silly stick on mustaches, lots of Hot Wheels, and even a DIY Lego case and easy Lego set. We intentionally told him about the gifts beforehand and he couldn’t wait to open them! When someone would ask how he was feeling about surgery, he would say ‘Good because I get to open my gifts!’ It was an amazing distraction. I know this won’t be the case for everyone, but it sure helped us.
Family Board Games
Going into surgery you have to be feeling 100% well, so we quarantined our family for a few weeks before the big day to help prevent against picking up germs. My sweet friend gave us some of her family’s favorite board games to help fill our days.
Family Photo Session
Pay for or set up a photo session for updated family pictures. We did this and I know I will treasure the photos for years to come.
Take a Meal
Pre-op appointments can be long and scary. Consider taking them a meal on those days.
Restaurant Gift Cards
Friends purchased hospital cafeteria and coffee shop gift cards, as well as gift cards to restaurants around the hospital and gave them to us before we left. It was so nice to know we had those to use for food and treats.
Think about what siblings or children might need. Our older children were given personalized drawstring bags filled with goodies to tote to the hospital or play with at the Ronald McDonald House. They were well stocked with tissues, hand sanitizer, gum, card games, books, and sweatshirts.
Also, encourage the family to utilize the hospital’s child life specialist, if available. Our hospital had someone whose job it was to help not only my son cope with his anxieties, but alleviate the fears of his sister and brother. She created a doll that gave them a preview of what he might look like when they saw him post-surgery. It was so helpful and we still look at the doll as we’re processing the experience.
Hospital Gown Fun
My son hates the gowns at the hospital. Enter Gracie’s Gowns. This amazing company sends personalized, adorable, custom sized gowns to children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. We loved this football gown made especially for our boy!
For the Mama
Purchase a gift card to a favorite clothing store or purchase clothes you know they will like and/or need. A friend got me a Loft gift card and I bought a comfy pair of cute sweatpants for the chilly nights at my son’s bedside. Other friends chipped in to buy an outfit and warm cardigan that I wore the day of his surgery. I loved that they knew my style well enough to buy something for me, and more importantly, that they were thinking of my needs as I catered to my son’s needs.
In addition to clothes, friends spoiled me with many sweet gifts. These gifts would be helpful for a patient or the mom and dad of a patient:
- Snuggly blanket
- Warm socks
- Books (even silly ones to take their mind off things)
- A devotional
- A nice notebook for taking notes
- Water bottle
- Favorite treats/candy
- Coloring book and colored pencils
- Wireless headphones
Every gift we received was so appreciated, but one gift really stood out to us; it was the gift of our friends’ time. A dear friend took time off work and booked a hotel near the hospital so he could be on call for whatever we needed. He sat with our son in the waiting room while we signed consent forms (one of the hardest parts of the process for me personally), kept us company during the actual surgery, prayed with us, ran to the cafeteria for water and snacks, and picked up tissues and medicines when we were coming down with a cold. He was around when we wanted him to be and not when we didn’t. My parents and another good friend booked an Airbnb and took our older kids on fun adventures around town while my husband and I stayed next to our son at the hospital in those critical first few days post-op.
I’m holding back tears as I recount the kindness of these acts. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but look for ways to do this in whatever way works for you. A call, a text, an email saying you’re thinking of them. Your time is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, MAUREEN, FOR SHARING THESE CREATIVE AND PRECIOUS IDEAS.
I know they are going to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives. Don’t forget to check out Take Them a Meal for more tips and encouragement on how to be a blessing to others.