Monday, September 21, 2015

How to "Be There" When You Can't Actually "Be There"

In the past 50 years or so, technical advancements have definitely shrunk our world. Obviously, not literally. Yet, because of the internet, an average girl like me can have a global reach. (I have blog readers from all around the globe, and SPD actually has a few customers from Europe and South America) Travel is much faster and more convenient than even 50 years ago.

We have missionary friends who first went to Japan just over 40 years ago. They actually took a boat from North America to Japan. It took days (at least). Now, we can hop on a plane and be to Tokyo (from Chicago) in 12-13 hours.

But, despite the convenience and rapidity of travel, plus our long reach (and maybe because of it) we still often are quite far away from the people who mean the most to us. Our communities aren't as centered around our flesh and blood. They aren't as tangibly reachable. Generations have spread around the world for all sorts of reasons.

So close, but so far away.

Personally, I live 1200 miles away from all 3 of my sisters, my parents, and 3 of my 4 brothers. (the other brother lives right across the street, with his wife and daughters) This usually doesn't bother me in the every day rhythm of life. I've never been one to be homesick, and the distance suits me just fine.

Except for major life events (and the occasional holiday). Then the distance bites.

A death. A birth. A surgery. An illness that won't give up. That's when my family and close friends need my presence, my physical assistance, a tangible expression of my care and concern, and I am nowhere near. That's not cool.

It's also not cool that while I'd love to jump in the car and drive the miles, to lend a helping hand with meals, cleaning, and child care, generally, that isn't a feasible option.

Through trial and error, and keeping my ear to the ground, I've found that there is still stuff I can do, even from afar. Some costs me time, and some cost me money, but all tell my people that I care, even though I can't be there. And, these things are possible because the internet has made the world smaller.

1) Send a note or a card. This only costs the price of a stamp and a few minutes. And it means so much. Emails have almost replaced hand written letters. That is such a tragedy! Basically the only things I get in my mailbox are bills, advertisements, and an occasional check (hey, I'm not complaining about that...). But, it still is thrilling to me when I actually receive a card or letter in the mail. It makes my day. It makes my week! A letter or card is something that you can read, and re-read, and it brings sunshine every time. So, write that person a note. It is a very tangible way to say you care and you are thinking of them.

2) Order a meal. I don't know about you, but growing up, bringing a meal in was the way to help a new mom, the grieving, or someone who just had surgery. Bring on the jello salads and lasagna!

But, how can you bring a lasagna to someone 1200 miles away?

Well, you can't.

But, the beauty of the world wide web is that almost every restaurant has a website, and a whole lot of them let you order online. From franchises to the Mom & Pop's around the corner-it's all accessible online.

This can be as simple as a Little Caesar's pizza delivered to their house, or as elaborate as ordering Ruth Chris and scheduling it for pick up. (not that I've actually ever ordered Ruth Chris, but you get the idea.)

Online ordering allows you to factor in allergies and the preferences. It is convenient in that generally you pay for the order online-either immediately, or your card is charged when the meal is picked up.

Also, yay for not subjecting the subjects to another lasagna! Not that lasagna is bad. But, there can be too much of a good thing.

3) Send flowers. IMHO, nothing brings sunshine and lets someone know you are thinking of them than more than fresh flowers. I've used Teleflora, and also a newish company Bouqs. Pick your price point, the flowers & vase, then type in where and when to deliver. (and don't forget to sign the note...) It is really convenient (for you), and it's such a boost.

Flowers is a great option for domestic, or even overseas, thinking of yous. I'm thinking of missionary friends. They can feel so very alone going through something as simple as the flu. They often have very little in the way of a physical network, and even getting the entire family through a case of the flu can be really wearing. Send flowers. Let them know they aren't alone. You are actually reading the FB updates, and thinking and praying for them.

4) Hire a cleaning service. One of the hardest things for me to do directly after having a baby is to ignore the urge to scrub the black ring out of the tub, or vacuum my carpet. Over-doing sets new moms back, but the visual mess greeting me, totally stresses me out.

It is quite easy to find reputable cleaning services online via zip code. But, if you are leery of the reputability of a company, beat the tom-toms on social media and find out who the locals recommend. Someone always knows someone.

Then call the company and hire them to vacuum and dust. Clean bathrooms and change bedding. Whatever needs doing. Whatever you'd do if you were there.

5) Send a box of sunshine. Someone did this for me recently. They bought a bunch of small yellow items (peanut M&Ms, a notebook, a coffee mug, straws, Oreos, Eos), and sent it to me when I desperately needed some tangible encouragement. It was a surprise that brightened my day, and made me feel thought about and loved.

This can be quite an economical thing with a Priority flat rate box from the Post Office. For $5-$10, you can pack quite the package, it doesn't matter the weight, and it will get where it needs to be in just 2 days. That is quite awesome-I think.

6) Childcare. So, this is the one thing that I haven't figured out how to do thousands of miles away. It is a bit more complicated. We can't trust our kids to just anyone, so we can't just hire someone off the internet. That's kind of crazy. But, I think there has got to be something that would work in this category. Any ideas?

Have you ever done any of these things? Has someone ever done one of them for you?