Do you ever wonder how you can help those around you when they’re in need, ill, or suffering a loss of some sort? Sarah Beckman’s Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial richly answers those questions and gives so many ideas to the person who’d like to help but just isn’t sure how. The BlogAbout Blogger Network provided an autographed (!) copy of Alongside for me to read and review–plus a copy to give away to one of our readers!
So…how to help?
Just recently, I was having dinner with two dear girlfriends. And this very subject came up. How do you help someone who’s suffered a huge loss? Or is facing some significant (or even life-changing) sort of trial? The first thing that comes to my mind is always to take a meal to the person or family who’s in need. But what if the person has particular dietary needs you don’t know about, or can’t cook yourself?
Of course, there’s always the gift card to restaurants or grocery stores. We were a bit stumped, though, as we brainstormed some other options. Sometimes you want to help another person, but you just don’t know how.
Alongside by Sarah Beckman
Not long after that dinner, I had the opportunity to read the book that answered those very questions, written by a woman who has both served others in their own trials and experienced challenges herself, when she was the one who needed assistance. She also contacted trusted friends and family, and asked them: “I’m writing a book and I need your help. Will you tell me exactly what was helpful and not-so-helpful to you during your most difficult life experience?”
Answers poured in as Sarah interviewed those close to her via Skype, Facebook, in person, and via email. These conversations weren’t just surface, quick answers, either. Some of them produced tears. But all of them brought wisdom and incredible ideas for those who wish to serve and love others in times of suffering. In Alongside, you’ll hear stories which range from those who were helped immensely, to those who were deeply hurt by someone’s well-meaning (yet thoughtless or unkind) remarks. And one of the reasons you’ll want to keep this book handy are 26 chapters full of wide-ranging ideas of just how you can love and serve those in crisis or trouble.
First of all…
Sarah Beckman begins with some things to keep in mind as you help and serve others. First, why we should love others or seek to serve them. How can we keep our own personal motivations healthy and pure? How can we serve others without making it about us? What are some examples of those who might be truly blessed by our help? Depending on the closeness of our relationships with the person in need, how intimately should we try to get involved as we serve?
Practical ways to love and serve
As I mentioned above, I’ve found taking a meal to be a very practical way to come alongside others. I have had several surgeries (not to mention bed rest during my pregnancy, and some broken metatarsals from a bad step off the stairs), and the meals others prepared and delivered to us made an enormous difference for us and gave us what I could not at the moment. I do love that idea.
But, there are SO, so many more, and the author’s entire second section of Alongside (18 chapters and 137 pages) is absolutely packed with categories and ideas that can bless our friends and neighbors. Here’s a sampling of those chapter titles:
- be present
- offer specific help
- listen well
- give good gifts
- nourish normal
- make them laugh
- tap into your talents
- choose wise words
You will find tons of ideas in this book. Great gifts lists for men, women, children, teens. Questions to ask. Inside- and outside-the-house duties that you could perform. Things NOT to say. Ways to help that won’t put pressure on the person who’s suffering. And so much more!
In special circumstances…
What do you do? What if you’ve had very similar times of suffering yourself? What if the person you’re desiring to serve doesn’t share your faith? How do you help when your friend has a terminal diagnosis? What about uncomfortable social situations? Sarah Beckman covers these and other situations where we might feel even less like we know what to do or how to help, with kindness and grace but also with clarity and wisdom.
How Alongside affected me
I loved this book. Over the course of my life, I’ve been in a position to offer help to others, and I’ve required it myself at various times. But I don’t always know what I can do (especially if I don’t have a super-close relationship with the person in need) to help besides bring food. Not anymore! Now, I have a huge abundance of ideas in addition to that. I also have more perspective on how my words might sound to the person in need; and how to take the pressure off them by offering specific things, rather than just asking, “How can I help?” and leaving them to come up with solutions when they’re already in a place of suffering. I’ve also been reminded of other needs a person in trial might have, and things I can do or offer to offset those.
Alongside could be a fantastic resource for:
- A person who is suffering–who’ll now have a long list to answer others who’d like to help but don’t know how
- An adult with older relatives
- Anyone who’d like to be available to serve in times of need
- Someone who’d like creative ideas for blessing others who are suffering
- Youth group leaders
- Those in ministry, whether it’s to men, women, or moms
We live in a beautiful world. But it’s also a world where we do both see trial, and experience it ourselves. For this reason alone, Alongside is a book which will equip you, encourage you, and help you to be ready to love and serve others. I recommend it highly!
Enter to win your very own copy!
One reader will be blessed with his or her own signed copy of Alongside by Sarah Beckman. Just click on the pink link below to go to the Giveaway Tools entry form to enter. Giveaway closes 2/24/17. Best wishes!
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