Saturday, November 26, 2011

Guidelines on What to Say to Someone with a Cast on Their Arm

After forty days my cast was finally removed. I would like to look back on those six weeks as a learning and growing period. Although I hope no one else ever breaks a bone I know that is not realistic.  So perhaps it would be prudent for me to share some of my learned wisdom.

-Under no circumstances ask the cast wearer if he/she broke his/her arm. You are just setting yourself up for a sarcastic answer such as “No, but I wanted to get out of doing dishes.” or “No, this is the latest fashion statement. Why don’t you have one?”

-Almost as bad is the question, “What happened?” Few breaks have an exciting story behind them. Most happen as a result of clumsiness and most people do not want to talk about how clumsy they were.
-I do know that usually the people asking the above two questions are asking from a place of caring but there are better ways of expressing concern. “Are you in pain?” “How long do you have to have the cast?” “I’m so sorry.” “Have a speedy recovery.”   With these questions and statements the cast wearer has the option of giving a simple answer or going into the story of the break in detail.
-Do not say, “If you need any help, just call me.” Many people are too proud, shy, uncomfortable, worried that you didn’t mean it, or insecure to make the call for something so open-ended. Better is to offer suggestions. “I want to come visit you and hang clothes on the line for you. Would tomorrow morning be good?” “I’m going shopping. Can I pick something up for you or would you like to come along?”  “I know fixing your hair can be tricky. Would you like me to come by and help?”
-Invitations for Shabbat meals are a tremendous boon. Also sending in food can be helpful, but check it out beforehand. There are a lot of special diets, allergies,  and picky eaters out there.
-The whole time I had my cast on it sported the statement, “Everything is for the good.”  I truly believed that but there were moments when I had to remind myself it was true. Only I could do the reminding, though. If someone else did it was too much like preaching. No one likes to be lectured.
- Our sages teach that anyone who visits the sick cures one-sixtieth of the illness. Someone with a broken bone may not be sick but in the beginning there is a lot of pain accompanied by frustration at being able to do so little and boredom. Every phone call or visit gives a warm glow. There is a reason we have the mitzvah of bikur holiim. I hope I have learned from my experience to make that extra effort to visit the sick.

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