Source: Aguen/Pixabay

This morning I followed up with a friend who traveled to a medical center to have a specialized test. She was advised that she would need someone to accompany her home. My local hospital has the same rules: regardless of the procedure or the age of the patient, no discharge is permitted without someone to escort you home. 

My friend’s husband had not been well and was unable to accompany her. Luckily, her grown daughter was free and, my friend reports, “she was wonderful!”  Not only was her availability genuinely useful, it was a way to show her love. She was able to pitch in to transform a potentially anxiety-ridden and unpleasant day into one with balancing blessings. Providing her own company meant even more than her helping by filling an essential need. It was a second way in which she showed love. 

As a bonus, when the train carrying mother and daughter arrived at mom’s home station, her husband was waiting for them, carefully holding her favorite milkshake in his hand, and she was delivered from one set of loving arms into a second. Her family had pitched in to soften a potentially stressful experience. They helped to limit the negative impact from the actual moments of the test itself and to help her transition back to the comforts and pleasures of her normal life as quickly as possible.

When someone faces a complex challenge. finding others who show their love by pitching in can bring irreplaceable benefits.

What is pitching in and how can you do it?

  • rawpixel/Pixabay
    Source: rawpixel/Pixabay

    Pitching in assumes that a situation needs to be addressed and that more than one person is needed to meet it. Perhaps a task must be completed — cleaning the storage spaces? Scheduling activities? Organizing a party or reunion?  Perhaps a challenge faces a loved one — moving to larger (or smaller) quarters?  Diagnosing a medical condition?

  • Timing can vary. Sometimes pitching in is an ongoing commitment — weekly babysitting so that a parent can attend graduate school, or reliably providing fruit salad for family gatherings. Sometimes it is planned coverage — a school half-day or after-school gap. Sometimes it is an emergency — a parent stuck in traffic during a commute; a sudden illness. Sometimes pitching in is necessary to create a communal event — a pot luck dinner, an excursion to a local fair or performance or match, and sometimes it is financial — adding to the pot to make something possible or to embellish an existing purchase, like adding the gift of a manicure for a girl’s first prom preparations or a new briefcase to celebrate a new job. Perhaps it is just the “I’m on board” support showed by your presence. Sometimes it is a willingness to shove aside your own desires and needs in the service of someone else’s — to drive the car as a volunteer chauffeur while being ignored by the passengers in the back seat, or to accompany a fourth grader to a school fair, knowing that she wants to spend the time there with her friends. It is not about you. It is about the person who has a need to be met.
  • Bearing witness to a challenge. The easiest way to realize that a coordinated effort is required remains listening carefully. Acknowledging a problem exists usually precedes an effective communal approach to solving it.
  • Understanding the nature and demands of the challenge. Before tasks and roles can be allocated, they must be defined. When a granddaughter needed surgery, she needed transportation and company, a natural and perfect role for her parents, but then her parents needed supervision for her younger sister and reassurance that scheduling changes could be met with flexibility. They also needed peace of mind that all was well on the home front while they took care of the moment’s most pressing urgency.
  • Assigning people is a way to pitch in and help. Being mindful of a loved one’s preference for savoring solitude versus socializing, for controlling as much as possible versus depending on others, for needing the distraction of trying to “do it all” versus exploring the psychic space available when you have help — all these factors help determine who and how many people to recruit.
  • Ask permission for a specific role. My friend was delighted when her daughter volunteered to accompany her home from the hospital. But she has two daughters. Had the second one also been available and volunteered, my friend would have faced a choice. This situation is common when a baby is born and a grandparent may usefully contribute to the reorganization and adaptation of the family. The preferred options of the loved one must be taken into account. Ask permission; do not assume that what you offer is the contribution that is most wanted.
  • But do not be afraid to provide a welcome surprise. Appropriate surprises are almost always a welcome way to show love.  Bring a favorite playlist.  Show up with that milkshake.  Find a way to add a note of delight

When was the last time you pitched in on behalf of someone you love? At what point in the process did you become involved? Did the level of intimacy or commitment in your love relationship shift after you pitched in? Can you think of a time when someone pitched in on your behalf? How did you react and respond to their efforts?

Copyright 2017 Roni Beth Tower

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