Are You Reaching Out?

When I was a little boy, I thought adults had it made. They could stay up as late as they wanted, eat what they wanted, watch TV whenever they wanted, and hang out with their friends as much as they wanted.

Ah, the Good Life.

Somehow, the life that I now have as an adult is not quite the one of my childhood memories!   Don’t get me wrong, I love husband and a dad, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  But stay up late? I’m exhausted by 10:00 p.m.  Eat whatever I want? Sure, if I were twenty five years old again.  Watch TV?  Well, ok, but please don’t mind the screaming in the background and the interruptions every thirty seconds.   And go out with friends?  Well, with boys on the autism spectrum it takes a few weeks to line up the sitter or respite care provider…and that’s if you can find them.

Time.  What happens to it?  Where does it go?  It gets harder and harder to find. And as a parent of children with special needs , it’s more elusive than ever to find that time to connect – with friends, specifically.  Does anyone else have this problem? I don’t have less of a need for friends, what I have trouble finding is time to devote to connecting with them.  Many other parents that I know feel as if they’re in the same boat.

As a result, moms and dads of children with special needs feel isolated.  Lonely.  We want someone who gets us, someone who can help us resist the urge to throw in the towel when our child has yet another meltdown, someone who can be a listening ear, an encouraging word, or who’ll simply spend time with us talking about anything but special needs!

When was the last time you connected with a friend?  I mean really connected?  Not just superficial conversation, but what-is-your-biggest-burden-right-now-friend conversation? How-can I-pray-for-you conversation? This is what we need, it’s what we were created for, and it’s what many of us long for. I’m convinced that the majority of parents (of children w/special needs) that I see weekly, whether it’s in my church, an autism walk, or support group, feel like they walk their journey…alone.  They’re longing for deep, meaningful connections with others.

“A man who has friends must be a friend….” Proverbs 18:24

We need friendships.  To be honest, there are times when I feel like others should know how I’m feeling and seek me out.  Can you guess how that’s worked out for me? Right, it hasn’t.  But as this verse reminds us, we are the ones who need to reach out and be a friend.  We need to actively cultivate, strengthen, and deepen our relationships with other people.

So, I’m going to give it a try!  Here are a few simple ways I’ve come up with to take the initiative and connect with friends –

Everybody wants to feel thought of and celebrated on their birthday. Acknowledge your friend’s birthday, but go beyond a phone call. It can be as simple as picking up Chick-Fil-A and dropping by their house for an unexpected birthday lunch. Or grab her favorite dessert and stop by. But make the effort. I promise it will bless them.

Take your friend out for coffee.  There are coffee shops all over the place which offer comfy chairs and a way to get out of the stress of life and just take half an hour and relax. Going out for coffee can be something you do to celebrate and reconnect if you haven’t seen each other for a while.

Pay attention to what your friend is struggling with. Then pick up a book or worship CD and a card  – but whatever you choose to do, package it up nicely, and include a note that you are praying for that specific need. It may brighten their whole week.

Try one of these ideas or perhaps one of your own and I promise you that you’ll discover:  it’s hard to feel lonely when you are reaching out and blessing others.

So, what are some of your ideas?

Michael Woods

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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