Whenever my younger brother comes over to our house to visit us, one of the first things he does is grab our largest, fluffiest blankets so he can curl up on the couch and rest. He doesn’t always fall asleep, but I think something about cocooning himself in blankets brings him comfort.
Comfort is something that my brother needs during this challenging season of his life. Over the last couple of years, he has been especially fragile. On top of the daily struggles being a young man with autism, he has been seeing a therapist to help with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Most of the time I see him or talk to him on the phone, he seems fine. He usually laughs and chatters about new games or films he likes.
But sometimes what starts as a normal conversation can take a really sudden and unexpected turn that leaves me worrying when I hang up the phone. My family sometimes feels like we’re walking on eggshells when conversing with him, so I can see how insulating himself in blankets can be the physical representation of wrapping his heart in bubble wrap.
Offering Warmth Instead of a Cold Shoulder
After one particularly upsetting phone call with my brother, I sent out a prayer request to my Catholic mom’s group. I asked for prayers for my brother and my parents who are his caretakers. One of the women in my group informed me that the church had a prayer shawl ministry. Volunteers from our sister church knit or crochet prayer shawls that are then blessed by the priests and donated to people who are in need of comfort.
Knowing my brother’s love for blankets, I knew that her offer was an answer to my prayer.
The prayer shawl she dropped off for my brother was beautifully made. The yarn was soft, but had a good weight. Among the rows of crocheted steel blue yarn hung a small Mary medal and a note that read, “Lovingly made for you by…”
The woman who crocheted this prayer shawl probably had no idea how big an impact the work of her hands would have for my brother. He was touched that he was given a gift. But I think he was more touched that someone he didn’t know would take the time to make something for him, let alone a group of strangers would be praying for him.
One Small Gesture
My brother wears his prayer shawl regularly. I think it brings him a lot of comfort.
I also gifted a prayer shawl to a close friend struggling with chronic illness and emotional trauma. She said it offered instant comfort the moment it rested on her shoulders. It offers the recipients physical and spiritual warmth. I imagine God wrapping His arms around my brother and my friend whenever they wear theirs.
Extending Comfort to Others
In what way can you offer warmth to someone who is struggling?
Oftentimes, the people who need help the most don’t actively ask for assistance. Maybe they think they’re being a burden to others or maybe they find it hard to admit that their suffering is a personal cross.
We can tell others, “You can call me if you need anything,” but sometimes we need to be the ones who reach out and offer that assistance without being prompted.
- What ministries does your church have for people who are suffering? Do you feel called to be a Stephen Minister, knit/crochet a prayer shawl, or make a dish for a funeral?
- Can you drop off a meal or start a meal train for a family in need? Do they need help doing things around the home like laundry, cleaning, or mowing the lawn?
- Do you have a friend with chronic illness or know someone who is lonely that would appreciate a weekly phone call?
- Is there someone you can pray with or invite to Adoration? Can you write their name in your church’s prayer intention book or light a prayer candle for them?
- Do you know anyone who would benefit from an encouraging handwritten note? Can you drop off a bouquet of flowers on someone’s doorstop anonymously?
Intentional Christian Service
Take time in prayer to think about the people God has placed in your life and how you can offer them warmth. Maybe there’s a special kind of service you can immerse yourself in or a way you can offer small everyday services to the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Think of your family, co-workers, strangers, or your enemies.
Perhaps you feel called to do a secret service that remains anonymous but is just as loving. We all have unique gifts and talents that we can use to help serve others.
How is God calling you to be of service to others?
Amy Heyse is an artist and mother who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her graphic design husband. You can often find her trying to squeeze in time for personal art-making between motherhood and working as an art instructor at a local paint and sip studio. You can find out more about her here.