Because we all need a little pick-me-up now and then.
1. Don’t text. Call.
Hearing an actual human voice when you’re down can feel like a lifeline. If your friend is introverted, he probably won’t pick up. That’s okay. Leave a message with a boost in it. If you’re calling an extravert, boom, you just made her day. Better believe she’s going to take that call.
2. Or text. Whatevs.
Sometimes a call isn’t practical. When I hear of a friend in crisis but I’m in the middle of a park run with my kids (one of whom has the memory of an elephant and can overhear things from half a mile away), texting is safer for everyone involved.
One of the great things about a text message is that they can be saved. While spoken words fade and memories come and go, an encouraging text can become a permanent part of a cell user’s history, read over and over again.
3. Write a note. On actual paper.
Don’t handwritten notes feel like a magical hug from afar? The person thought of you, tracked down your address, found a stamp, picked out stationary… the list goes on. A handwritten note is an incredible gift, yet so simple to do.
I led a women’s retreat a couple of weeks ago, and when I returned to the church office on Monday, one of the women had tucked a beautiful card into my mailbox. She mentioned specifics about how the day encouraged her, and her words deeply encouraged me.
4. Share something on social media
We all love a public shout-out now and then.
5. Give a specific, non-appearance-related complement
Is your friend generous? Thoughtful? Hilarious? Did you notice how hard she worked on that project, how much time he put into that meeting, how they went out of their way to welcome you to dinner?
Tell her. Let him know.
6. Give a gift
When I was new to the area, a new friend dropped by my office with a card, a candle, and a reusable water bottle. It was my birthday, but I didn’t know she knew that. The gift meant even more because it was totally unexpected.
Gifts don’t have to be big. Pick a flower, snap a photo, snap up a postcard that makes you laugh, and pass it on.
7. Offer a specific type of help
Do you bake amazing muffins? Love washing other peoples’ dishes? Have a green thumb? Know how to pour patio concrete? Love to babysit? Offer a friend something you uniquely can do or perhaps even teach them to do.
A couple of months ago we had a dear friend over who is an expert in… wait for it… sprinkler repair. He and Daryl nerded out in our backyard with trowels and pipes and we were so grateful to him for his knowledge and kindness. There’s a tremendous difference between hiring someone and bringing in a friend who can share stories and laughter along with their expertise.
When we first attempted a camping trip with young kids, a fellow mom kitted us out with a loaner tent and stove and lanterns. She loved sharing her knowledge, and our trip was ninety-seven million times better because of her care.
Whatever you are great at, someone else isn’t. We need each other.
8. Leave a little surprise
I dated a guy in college who used to leave new novels on my windshield. For a book nerd like me, that’s almost grounds for marriage right there. Sadly, we weren’t compatible in pretty much any other way (don’t you be consistently late to dates because of video games, guys! it is never a good look.). Still, those book surprises were gold.
Tie a balloon to a car antenna. Stick a chocolate bar into a mail slot (as long as you know there’s no dog at the house because that’d be real bad).
Unexpected encouragement often feels like double the love.
9. Bring food
If you know their favorite snack, bring that.
If it’s an extra busy season, offer to pick up dinner. These last months of extreme nausea, more than a few friends have picked up pizza and salad for us. Nothing has encouraged me more than knowing my kids have full tummies with no prep, no cooking (the smells!), and no clean up.
A dear friend is already helping us count down the weeks until Baby #3.
“You know I’m bringing you coffee, right?” she asks. “LOTS of coffee.”
10. Just listen
Often what a friend who’s down really needs is a listening ear. Someone who won’t “that reminds me of the time…” the conversation. A person who isn’t there to dispense advice or give counsel.
Listening is becoming a lost art. We’re all ready to jump in with thoughts of our own; we’re all in a bit of a hurry.
Yet a friend who asks good questions–what has this been like for you? in the hardest moments, what are you feeling? do you want to talk more about that?–can share the burden, lift the spirits, and do a whole world of good without spending a dime.
What encourages you?