Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently condemned “thoughts and prayers” after the New Zealand tragedy. Sometimes, Christians say that to be dismissive, “I’ll pray for you, but I just don’t have time to do anything constructive.” Other times, the problem might be too much for the person, “I’ll pray for you because I just don’t know what else to do.”
Sometimes, in your own mind, thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough when there’s a disaster. Here are some suggestions that go beyond prayers when something bad happens.
National and International Tragedies
Individually, it can seem hard to believe that our actions are effective when disaster strikes halfway around the world, but small actions add up.
- Donate money. Find a nonprofit with a good track record and give cash. Find local reports for charities that are directly helping people.
- Donate blood. Even if your blood is only used locally, you’ve made a contribution to help make sure that there is a supply for anyone who needs it.
- Send supplies. Check with the local charities about what is needed. You may be able to ship diapers, tampons, soap and towels through Amazon or Walmart to local organizations that are set up to help those in need.
- Call your elected officials and voice your concerns.
- Organize locally with your community. Have a vigil to honor victims. Come together to donate supplies and money. Have a moment of silence to remember those who have been affected.
- Commit to praying for the affected community for 10, 20 or 30 days.
When someone you know and love is going through something painful, it can be difficult to know where to start. You can’t make their pain go away, but you can sit with them and let them know that they can experience any emotions they want. Don’t judge. Don’t comfort. Just let them go through their own process. If you need or want to do something concrete, consider what might help the person.
- Clean their house. The person who experienced loss is going to have visitors. Offer to sweep the front porch. Load the dishwasher. Vacuum. Clean the bathroom. Gather up dirty clothes.
- Bring groceries or gift cards for food. There are many reasons people bring food when someone dies. First, no one feels like cooking. Next, they usually have more people to feed. Third, it gives you something to do. This is the time to get things that are easy to prepare and clean-up. With food delivery services, you can even send a meal long distance if you like.
- Send a card or note. Write out a thoughtful note to the person and send it in the mail. Make a note in your calendar to do it again next year on the date of the tragedy to let that person know you support them on that anniversary.
- Send flowers or a gift. This can be widely interpreted depending on the tragedy. If a person lost their home, you might want to buy something that would replace what was lost. When someone dies, a plant or floral arrangement is a nice touch. Mementoes of a person are also appropriate.
- Ask how you can help. You may have to dig deep to find out what a victim really needs. At first, you might get, “Oh, I’m okay. I don’t need anything.” You may have to read between the lines to hear what is really needed.
If you say you want to help, do what you’ve offered to do. You don’t have to fix the problem. All you can do is to be there and offer support. Thoughts and prayers are nice sentiments. You can still pray and have good thoughts. Take action to really make a difference.