CBP: What inspired you to write "The Art of Helping"?
Lauren: Through my difficult times, both as a child and an adult, I found that people didn't know how much I was hurting or how to help me. As I spoke with others who were facing a crisis I found that I was not alone. They, too, felt no one understood or knew how to help. I believe we are a caring and compassionate nation, and desire to offer compassion and help, but we truly don't know how. With the help of over 150 "I've been there" contributors, The Art of Helping provides the tools necessary to equip others to bring comfort to hurting hearts.
CBP: You have experienced many trials in your own life. Can you tell us your Christian testimony?
Lauren: I was what I have termed, "The Forgotten Griever." Because of my brothers' brain damage and later their death, the focus was on meeting their medical needs, caring for them and supporting my parents as they watched their sons' decline to need round the clock medical care. No one understood how much I was hurting or how sad I was. School friends teased me, calling my brothers "morons" or "retards." I didn't tell my parents because I didn't want to add to their problems. I kept my heartaches to myself. During this time, my parents abandoned any faith or form of religion. Mom was invited to a Christian Women's Club where she first heard of having a personal relationship with Jesus. As a result, we were invited to attend a local evangelical church. I was invited to their Pioneer Girls meeting, which was where I learned about what Christ did on the cross for me. I was the first person in my home to ask Jesus to come into my heart, forgive me and become my Lord and Savior. As a teen, I attended Bible studies with Campus Crusade for Christ and taught Junior Church. In college, I led campus prayer meetings and Bible studies. I am actively involved in my local church and speak with my mother, Florence Littauer and my sister, Marita Littauer.
CBP: What is the most common mistake Christians make when trying to help someone in crisis?
Lauren: In an effort to move our hurting friend past the pain and the hurt, we tend to minimize their crisis or loss. We make statements like: "It's probably for the best." "Well, things could be worse." "You know God is in control." We want them to feel better, get better and not be in the pain they are experiencing. What we must do is acknowledge that a crisis/loss has happened, listen to their heart and validate their feelings with statements like: "This must be very hard for you. I wish I could take this hurt away." "I feel for you during this difficult time." Another common mistake is to say, "If there is anything you need, give me a call." Don't leave the ball in their court. Instead, go to them and be specific with what you are willing to do to help. Offer ideas like: "I'm on the way to the store; what can I pick up for you? Do you have any milk?" "Would tomorrow be a good day to help you with the laundry?" "My husband would like to mow your lawn tomorrow." Most of the time, people in a crisis can't decide or don't know what they do need and would never dream of asking because they don't want to impose.
CBP: How should we approach someone who is grieving?
Lauren: The first thing we need to do is make our initial contact in a timely manner. The longer we go between the time we first hear the news and when we make contact, the more awkward it becomes. As soon as we become aware of a need, crisis or loss, we need to visit, call or send a card. Prayerfully ask God's guidance for what you will say or what you will write in a card. Then, step out in faith and write, call or visit your hurting friend. Once you've made the initial contact, you'll find follow-up calls are much easier. I also suggest bringing a little gift, some food or flowers as an icebreaker when you visit someone. It is a way to give purpose to your visit and a start to the conversation. Your gift may be as simple as one rose from your garden, a package of herb teas, a votive candle, a CD, or a brownie. The idea is not to be elaborate or expensive, but to let the person know you thought about him or her and made an effort to bring a token of love and concern.
CBP: You suggest that we use our own gifts when reaching out to others. Can you give an example?
Lauren: If you are not a great cook or don't enjoy cooking don't put pressure on yourself to prepare a meal, instead do what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. Offer to help with the ironing, organize their bills, do yard work, do necessary car repairs, change the linens, pack a fun bag for the children or send gift certificates to local stores or restaurants. One friend said, "Lauren, I'm sure you like to be with the hurting, because it's sure not my gift!" I don't know that it is my gift either, but I do have a sensitivity to the needs of others and their pain. Don't use the excuse that you are not comfortable with heartache, sorrow or pain. Do you think your friend who is walking the difficult path is comfortable? You need to be the expression of God's comfort as you reach out to those who hurt. The Art of Helping is filled with interesting and unusual ideas of how to bring comfort to hurting hearts while functioning within your own gifts. A friend had The Art of Helping on her desk at work when a coworker began browsing through it. She asked, "Is this a book for people with the gift of helps?" My friend replied, "No, it's for those of us who don't have it!"
CBP: Amen to that -- I have it on my desk for quick reference too! You are a very busy person! What other endeavors are you involved with?
Lauren: I have been married for 28 years to Randy Briggs, the president of Collector Galleries, a 68 year old business specializing in coins, stamps and investments. When available, I work with him in our store. In the face of having two brothers die because of a severe, yet undiagnosed brain condition, I am blessed to have three sons of my own. They are all musically gifted. Randy, Jr., 25, is a member of "The Aquabats" a parent friendly rock band and is working with my husband in our business. Jonathan is 21 and a third year student at UCLA, majoring in Music. Bryan is 17 and hoping to wrap up his high school career early and move on to pursuing a major in vocal performance. I have been very active with my sons' band projects and performances. As a family we often participate our regional theater productions. We have appeared in My Fair Lady, The Music Man and Fiddler on the Roof. Last summer we were all in The Sound of Music (I was a nun) and this summer my sons will be in Guys and Dolls. Randy and I are also active in both church and community choral groups including the annual Feast of Lights in Redlands, CA where we live. We also enjoy fine dining and love to cook and entertain.
During my years of parenting, I have maintained my interest in business. I have a home-based company doing bookkeeping, graphic design and business management consulting for a select group of clients. I am also a licensed real estate agent specializing in the real estate needs of returning missionaries. Every once in a while, I wish I could know what it is to be "bored," but that doesn't seem likely any time soon. I have a beautiful rose garden with over 45 rose bushes. It sits right outside my home office window, beckoning me to come tend it. That is one of my rewards for a morning well spent, to go spend time pruning and working in my rose garden. With my mother, noted Christian speaker and author Florence Littauer, and my sister, speaker, author and President of CLASServices Inc. Marita Littauer, I am involved in training the next generation of Christian Speakers and authors though the CLASSeminar. For example, some of our more noted graduates include Emilie Barnes, Patsy Clairmont and Becki Tirabassi--none of whom were well known or published at the time they attended CLASS. More recently, we have launched the writing careers of Vickey Banks, Eva Marie Everson and Rhonda Webb. It is this experience that helped me in the writing and publishing of The Art of Helping. I am also a speaker myself, speaking for a variety of groups on parenting, grief issues and other personal/spiritual growth topics.
Because of my personal experiences with loss and my passion for helping others through the grieving process, I am a founding member of the local chapter of The Compassionate Friends--an organization in support of parents who have lost children, and serve as a support for friends and members of my church who are going through loss.
Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your time with us, and giving us a peek at your life!