Recently I was the speaker at a gathering of our local pastors, and one of the questions asked was, “What can we do to help families make life-affirming choices?” This pastor was particularly asking how we could meet the needs of families outside of the context of the church.
I have a lot of suggestions for how we can be life-affirming for those around us, and these are some of the ways I’ve chosen to help families in need in my community. Some of them are a little out of the norm but my goal is always to help families who may choose to end an unexpected pregnancy, and I make my choices based on my own experiences as a poor, single mom.
These suggestions are geared both towards supporting a woman during pregnancy and helping families live in conditions conducive to choosing life should they face an unexpected pregnancy. They do contain references to my faith, but most are just as easily implemented without any religious component.
Call your local pregnancy resource center and find out how to volunteer, especially if you’re a medical professional. Whether you work in the medical field or not, make a commitment to serve regularly. When clients consistently see you there, they know you care.
Caring for them on a personal level will go much farther than donating a few dollars, or showing up to a quarterly fund-raising event. There are both secular and faith-based options.
2) Host a Baby Shower
Organize a baby shower for expectant families in your community. You may be able to do this in a local church in conjunction with your local food pantry. Other organizations that may be able to help are professional clubs like The Knights of Columbus and the Rotary Club.
“Advertise” for sponsors in your local library, the grocery store, and, if possible, in your local social services department. Sponsors can drop off items at the shower location that a new family would need.
Ask for volunteer families who would like to decorate the party space so expectant moms feel welcomed. Prepare a diaper bag full of goodies for each family, and include a personal gift for mom and dad, so they know you’re thinking of them. Ask them for a list of friends and family to invite, and invite the community to the party, if appropriate for the occasion.
A church may invite congregants, a club may sell dinner tickets to pay for the space, etc. An RSVP is vital for this type of event, as you don’t want more guests than you have food, or more moms than you have gifts for.
3) Donate Your Talents
If you have a skill, donate it to someone who may not be able to afford specialty services.
Are you a hairdresser? Offer a haircut. Haircuts are unnecessary expenses for many families—after all, dad can get a buzz cut from mom, and mom can let her hair grow out. While those looks can be good, nothing makes someone feel better than a great haircut. It’s also important to look well-groomed for work advancements and other professional appointments.
Are you a carpenter? Repairs are always welcome, even if someone lives in a rented living space. Helping a family put together furniture and attaching heavy items to walls properly can assure the safety of both children and adults in the household (plus, it eases the family’s burden a bit).
Many who may have the knowledge and skill to be able to do these things may lack the tools required. Helping to make someone’s house a home helps families connect with their shared, interior lives. The contribution to the space they inhabit will go a long way towards providing the stability struggling families so desperately need.
Can you sew? Offer to alter an item of clothing so it fits properly for a job interview or other professional appointment. Similar to a haircut, there’s nothing like a well-fitted suit to make someone feel good, and help an applicant feel he or she deserved the job he or she is applying for. You could also offer to teach mom or dad how to make simple repairs—sewing buttons and fixing zippers will go a long way towards saving on children’s clothing, and these are becoming lost skills.
Whatever your talents are, using them to help someone is a beautiful thing. Once a young friend crocheted me a brightly colored afghan because I lived in a dark, dank apartment and she wanted me to have some color in my life. I still treasure that gift.
4) Prepare a Meal For Them
If you know someone is struggling due to illness, cook a few meals that can be frozen and reheated. If they’re not ill, the same type of meal would be a nice respite, especially if both mom and dad have to work, and don’t have a lot of time.
When I was single, most of my grocery budget was blown on expensive, ready-made foods of low nutritional value because they could be prepared quickly and with little forethought. I was sometimes working three jobs to keep my son and I off the welfare rolls. Making a full meal with the proper rations of veggies and starches was the last thing on my mind.
By preparing a meal for someone, you’re giving a family the gift of time. Instead of rushing home from a job, mom or dad spending 45 minutes to an hour cooking, then rushing through a meal and homework only to fall into bed, a small family can enjoy dinner, and possibly some family time before heading off to sleep.
Be sure to ask about food allergies before bringing food into someone’s home.
5) Pray For Them
Pray for them the way you want people to pray for you. Pray for self-control during times of success and pray for comfort during times of disappointment. Pray for their children.
Ask them to pray for you in kind. Let them know you find their esteem of your family valuable. Let them know you need their help in this way, too. Share the areas you struggle with in your family life.
There’s nothing worse, when you’re poor, than the comparison game: the internal focus is always on how other families are somehow inherently better than you. Very rarely do you see similarities. By asking someone to pray for you in your areas of struggle, you’re not only encouraging him to connect with God but you’re drawing the focus away from what separates you to what binds you together.
Now, I’m aware some of this sounds paternalistic. It’s not. Families who are struggling and seek improvement will welcome you, especially when help is given with no strings attached. It will take a little bit of humility for both sides of the equation to come together, but the end result is healthier families and children who will know they’re loved and that they can come to you should find themselves in a crisis, which is the most life-affirming objective we could hope to meet.
Loving people saves lives. So go love someone.