How to Be a Good Friend When Being There Isn't an Option

Carine Nadel

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As much as we all would like, sometimes being a “friend in deed" physically isn't something we're able to do. Recently a good friend of mine had been going through quite a rough patch in her life, it was and no doubt will continue to be filled with not-so-great days for many weeks to come. First the company she worked for went belly up, leaving her with only her private clients in the world of bookkeeping to keep her financially afloat. Of course her medical insurance went south along with the day job. Thankful for the opportunity to pay Cobra an outrageous amount of money, she promptly fractured her left foot and found out she had breast cancer. Oh, she also turned 50.

Single, scared and needing comfort, would definitely describe my friend. I wanted to be there, physically not just emotionally. However, this year has not been very good to me either. In the light of what she is going through, mine are truly trivial problems. About a week before her news of a fractured foot, I had beaten her to the finish line-I broke my right foot, in two places and the area was said to “be in an area that caused great concern" to the orthopedic staff at my HMO. No weight-bearing for six weeks. Certainly couldn't drive anywhere without my chauffeur (otherwise known as my husband).

So being able to hop into my little blue PT Cruiser and zip down the freeway to her apartment was simply not an option. How could I be a supportive friend when I wasn't able to stand up on my own two feet? The following are some of the ideas I came up with:

1. Send e-cards! My friend loved the heartfelt, the funny and the silly. According to her, when she came home after the surgery, she wanted to see what I had found to cheer her up that day. Using snail mail is also an option that can be fun for the receiver to guess what's in the mailbox that isn't going to require them to take out their paycheck and clear some kind of account.

2. Obviously pick up the phone and call. This is necessary for not only to have someone call, but as a caring friend you want to make sure they are truly okay and not in need of an ambulance. This is especially true if the person you want to be with has just come home from the hospital and doesn't have anyone close by to stay with them. Even if the tough spot a friend is going through isn't medical, having someone call to remember you exist is a mood elevator.

You do however want to listen to them, not prattle about your own latest snafus or promotions-this isn't what you're calling about-today, it's not all about you!

3. It may be cliche, but if your budget allows, send some flowers. Something fun like sunflowers will brighten the room and make them feel special.

4. Here's a step that not many would think of, but it was a stand out that merited an extra thanks from my friend: Have a dinner (or two) delivered by one of their local restaurants or a favorite hangout. Even if there is a caregiver around, this will help lighten the load of one of life's necessities. I can tell you from experience my husband was thrilled when a delivery of our favorite bowls of pho showed up at the front door about a week into my accident. Poor guy was working full-time, driving me to and from work, doing the laundry, feeding the animals and cooking the meals (while I had done this for over 25 years, he had never had to be “super mom" before). So when my parents had our favorite local Asian restaurant send over dinner one night-he literally could have cried in happiness!

It's not the big things we do for the special people in our lives that makes a difference. Showing concern and being a good friend can be as simple as remembering that the people in our lives need to be heard and letting them use us a sounding boards.

These “tips" aren't special, time consuming or different, it's just that they work. This holds true if you're in the same room or across the country.

Carine has always used a practical way of guiding herself through life. To read more of her work log onto: or


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