Let me tell you a quick story…
Debbie decided to do a quick grocery shopping to pick up a few things that her kids needed. It was a rough morning and her pain was screaming but she knew it wouldn’t take her long.
In the store, while she was walking down the aisle, an old lady pulled her cart up to the flour section. There were about 6 people in the aisle.
The old lady asked her, “Could you lift this bag of flour for me?” Debbie looked at the bag of flour she was pointing at and whoa, it was the biggest one they had!
She looked back at the old lady and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t. I…” The old lady cut her off, looked angrily at her and shouted for everyone nearby to hear, “Oh my! I can’t believe young people these days!”
Then all turned their eyes on her. One lady hurriedly approached them, lifted the bag of flour for the old woman and turned to Debbie, “Unbelievable! You are going to let this poor lady lift that bag herself? You should be ashamed of yourself!”
The others did not say anything but they gave her rude looks. She stood there embarrassed, shamed and frozen.
She wanted to explain her condition and defend herself but she was taken aback by everyone's reactions. She just ended up turning her cart around and walking away.
You see, Debbie has a chronic back problem. She was just a few months out from spinal fusion surgery and was actually still wearing a back brace. Yes, she was only 39 years old and looked very strong, but there was no way she could lift that bag up!
Debbie is just one of the many women who experienced shaming because of invisible illness or disability. They are usually mistreated, misunderstood and misjudged because we cannot see their conditions.
There might be a ‘Debbie’ in your family, group of friends, church, neighborhood, workplace, school, grocery store in a random day, etc. So today, I’d like to share with you how to show care and kindness to women like Debbie in 5 different categories - the 5 Love Languages (based on Gary Chapman’s book).
Just a quick note…
...a chronic illness “is a human health condition or disease that is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects or a disease that comes with time. The term chronic is often applied when the course of the disease lasts for more than three months.” Some of the common chronic illnesses are diabetes, hypertension, cancer, asthma, arthritis, COPD, lupus, lyme, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, etc.
Now that you got to know Debbie (and the women like her all around you) a little bit better, check out some ideas how you can show some random acts of kindness when you get the opportunity to do so.
Show spoonies how much you care through the 5 love languages.
1. Acts of Service
- Prep healthy home cooked frozen meals (please ask for her diet, food allergies or intolerances)
- Make a detox smoothie
- Ride to appointments
- Ask what you can pick up for her when you’re on your way to the grocery store
- When you see a stranger parked in a handicap spot, help her get in or out of the car, or carry her groceries, or open the door for her
2. Physical Touch
- Hug (gentle, please)
- Hold her hand
- Rub her back
- Gentle massage
- A cuddle
3. Words of Affirmation
- "I believe you."
- "I'm praying for you."
- "We’re inviting you to hang out. If you need to cancel at the last minute, please don’t feel guilty. We understand that your symptoms are unpredictable."
- For a stranger being shamed in public and ganged up on just like Debbie, you can tell her something like, “I’m sorry you experienced that.” She may not have an invisible illness but it’s better not to jump to negative conclusions especially if we don’t know the other person well.
- Share an encouraging quote or Bible verse
- Soft fuzzy socks
- Coloring book and gel pens/colored pencils
- Maid service coupon/gift card
- Cooling gel eye mask
- Inspiring and encouraging audio book
5. Quality Time
- Arrange to visit her with pot luck dishes (please remember to ask for her diet)
- Have a movie evening at home
- Take time to research about her condition and have a conversation with her about what you found out
- Tell her a funny story
- Just listen to her
I hope you already have a "Debbie" in mind right now and that the suggestions above sparked more ideas. If you'd like to share yours, please post them on the comment section below.