As a youth worker, one of my roles is to come alongside families during times of struggle and provide pastoral care. As part of this, others often ask me, “What can I do for Person X?”
During times of crises, people want to be helpful but they don't always know how to be.
Sarah Beckman's book, Alongside, offers a practical guide for “loving your neighbor in their time of trial.” In her words, “Jesus said loving your neighbor was second in importance only to loving God. Second, He didn't say exactly how we were to love our neighbor.”
It's that dilemma that Sarah addresses head-on in Alongside. Born out of her experience with how people served her while recovering from repeated back surgeries as well as the times she walked with friends facing cancer diagnoses, Alongside is filled with personal stories about what actually is and isn't helpful during times of trial.
Sarah's personal experience with this topic enable her to offer her readers lots of wisdom about how to love others well. She's also well-aware of the unique opportunity crises bring to help people who wouldn't otherwise accept it. According to her, “Vulnerability brings with it an open door – one that often remains closed in the normal busyness of lives.”
Alongside is a highly practical resource in which Sarah reminds readers to offer specific help and challenges them to help without asking, saying “some of the best help comes from people who didn't ask permission first.” Throughout Alongside, Sarah also includes several helpful lists including how to serve others when someone dies or is facing a long-term illness.
My biggest critique of Alongside is Sarah's “research”. Throughout the book, Sarah refers often to the research she conducted before writing it, when she talked to others who have journeyed through crises to find out what was and wasn't helpful for them. While Sarah's research certainly wouldn't stand up to academic standards, I appreciate the fact that Sarah's advice comes from more than just her own experience.
All in all, Alongside is a highly readable manual for caring for people during times of crises, informed by Sarah's Christian faith. Anyone who's ever wondered what they can do to help someone weather a time of crisis will find this book helpful, as will pastoral care teams looking for a resource to read and discuss together.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Alongside in exchange for a fair and honest review.