In January 2017, I had a first in my three years of parenting: one of my kids was hospitalized. My son, Jonathan, who was seven months old at the time, was in the hospital for five days with RSV. As all parents know who have gone through this, it is a very scary, stressful experience. I was at the hospital with him the entire time, and my husband was at home with our two girls. Thankfully, Jonathan came home and didn’t have any problems following this hospital stay.

All parents at some point have experienced their kids being sick. It is always difficult to see your child sick. Everything else in normal life usually comes to a halt so that you can attend to your child’s needs. If you have more than one child, you and your husband must divide and conquer. You are sanitizing everything, and praying that no one else falls to sickness. You may have to take time off work to care for them and/or take them to the doctor’s office. You must carefully monitor their condition, so that you can judge whether they are getting better or worse, and if they are getting worse, what your next plan of action will be.

It’s always a stressful decision to take your child in to the hospital. You don’t know if they will admit you, you may not know yet what is wrong with your child, you don’t know how long you will be there, and you likely will have a lot of other problems to solve in planning for who will take care of your other responsibilities that are now on hold. But, without question, your top priority is your sick child, and doing whatever it takes to get him or her better. The worst thing of all is seeing your child suffer.

It was an utterly exhausting experience in January when Jonathan was in the hospital. However, despite the fact that I am so glad that now those five days are now no more than a memory, there are a few really amazing things that stand out in my mind when I recall that time. One of them was the excellent medical care that Jonathan received, and that the hospital staff heeded all of my needs as well. The other thing that really made me take a step back and consider how blessed I was during that trial was all of the many friends who reached out to my family and me.

After we were discharged, I thanked God for all of my kind and caring friends, and I made a mental note of what I wanted to do for any of my friends when something like this happens to them:

1)     Take a bag of toiletries to the family member(s) caring for their sick loved one.

When I took Jonathan in to the hospital, I had not packed a lot of the things that I would later need. However, my dear friend Ayla called me that night after she had seen that I had posted on Facebook that Jonathan was in the hospital. She called and said that she was on her way down, and she brought me a bag of toiletries which included travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, a razor, a toothbrush, tissue, an extra phone charger, and a lot of bottles of water. She also brought me several changes of clothes. This truly saved my sanity and blessed my heart.

2)     Call and ask if there is any way that you can help them with other things at their home.

The entire time that I was in the hospital with Jonathan, my husband Miguel was at home with our other two kids. There were times that he had to arrange childcare for them so that he could go to work, especially since I had to take time off from my job to be there with Jonathan. Fortunately, people called us, and they stepped in to help us there too. There were also errands that I couldn’t run, that my very caring friends were able to help me with.

3)     Take them a meal.

It can be expensive for caregivers to eat the food at the hospital, and they can quickly grow tired of it. It can be a huge blessing if you offer to bring a meal to the caregiver(s) at the hospital, or to the rest of their family at home. My friend Tari brought me a delicious Mediterranean Quinoa, which was a nourishing reprieve from the hospital cafeteria, and it was enough to last more than one meal. Her thoughtfulness ministered to my body and my soul.

4)     Message them and let them know that you are thinking about them.

There were so many people who sweetly expressed their concern for Jonathan and how we were doing. We received so many offers for help that week that we had to graciously turn some of them down. Thanks to all of our loving friends, all of our need are met. However, there are never too many messages that say “Get well soon!” or “How are you today?” “Any improvement?” “We love you.”

5)     Pray for the sick person and their loved ones.

This is the most important. Scripture tells us that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Our prayers for healing can do things in the spiritual realm that we will never see or understand. Families with sick loved ones will appreciate all the prayer that they can get, whether they are Christians or not.

We may not be pastors in a vocational sense, but we are all ministers of the gospel, and we are all a “royal priesthood” according to the Bible. We are, in a very pure sense, living out our identity in Christ when we lovingly care for the sick and their families. Let’s remember to pay it forward and reach out when this happens to someone in our circle of friends.

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