Show Consideration for Single Parents
FEW people have to contend with more demands on their time and energy than single parents do. The challenges they face are innumerable. They must care for the many responsibilities of raising a family. Besides working at a job, there is shopping, cooking, cleaning, parenting. Then there is the need to provide health care, recreation, and emotional support for the children and, if at all possible, to find a few precious moments of personal time.
Although single-parent families are becoming an increasingly larger and more visible part of society today, they can easily be overlooked. As one mother candidly admitted, “Until I became a single parent, I wasn’t really aware of them.” What can you do to show consideration for single parents? Should you be concerned about them? Let us consider three reasons for giving attention to their needs.
Reasons for Showing Consideration
Many single parents want help. A 41-year-old widow with two children stated, “There are times when I am not sure what to do, and I feel quite overwhelmed by the many responsibilities I have.” Widowhood, abandonment, or other unfavorable circumstances have left many single parents feeling the way one mother did. She said, “We are pleading for relief, and we need it desperately!”
It contributes to your own happiness. Have you ever helped someone carry a load that was too heavy for one person? If so, you likely felt a sense of satisfaction in knowing that you had assisted someone in a practical way. Similarly, single parents carry a load that can at times be too taxing for one person. When you respond to their needs by lending a helping hand, you will experience the truthfulness of what is stated at Psalm 41:1: “Happy is anyone acting with consideration toward the lowly one.”
It is pleasing to God. James 1:27 says: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation.” This includes looking after single parents.* Hebrews 13:16 states: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Having in mind these three reasons for showing consideration for single parents, let us now see what you can do to help and how you can be sure that the assistance you provide will be practical.
Discerning Their Needs
It may seem that the obvious thing to do is to ask a single parent, “How can I help?” Realistically, though, this rarely results in someone’s telling you what his or her real needs are. As noted earlier, Psalm 41:1 recommends “acting with consideration.” One reference work explains that the Hebrew term used here can mean “the process of thinking through a complex arrangement of thoughts resulting in a wise dealing.”
Therefore, to find out the best way to help, you need to give serious thought to the challenges the single parent faces. Be observant, not just taking a superficial look at the situation. Ask yourself, ‘If I were in that situation, what help would I want?’ Of course, many single parents will tell you that, try as you may, you can never fully appreciate what it is like to be a single parent unless you are one yourself. Still, doing your best to empathize with their circumstances will put you in a better position to ‘act with consideration’ toward single parents.
Imitate God’s Perfect Example
When it comes to caring for single parents, no one has done this more lovingly and effectively than Jehovah God. Many scriptures highlight the consideration and concern that Jehovah God shows to widows, fatherless boys and, hence, single parents. By examining the way God responds to the needs of such lowly ones, we can learn much about offering assistance that is truly helpful and practical. There are four key factors to consider.
Give a listening ear
In the Law he gave to ancient Israel, Jehovah declared that he would ‘unfailingly hear the outcry’ of the disadvantaged one. (Exodus 22:22, 23) How can you imitate this fine example? Single parents often experience intense feelings of loneliness, having no other adult to talk to. “When the children go to bed, I sometimes can’t stop crying,” lamented one single parent. “The loneliness is too much to bear at times.” If appropriate, can you make yourself available to ‘hear the outcry’ of a single parent who may need to pour out his or her feelings? Your giving a listening ear under proper circumstances can do much to help that one cope with the challenges of single parenthood.
Offer words of encouragement
Jehovah inspired the writing of sacred songs, or psalms, that the Israelites would sing during occasions for worship. Imagine the encouragement Israelite widows and fatherless boys received when singing the divinely inspired words that reminded them that Jehovah was “a father” and “a judge” for them and that he would provide them with relief. (Psalm 68:5; 146:9) We too can offer words of encouragement that can stay with a single parent for years to come. Although 20 years have passed, Ruth, a single parent, still fondly remembers the occasion when an experienced father told her: “You’re really doing a good job raising your two sons. Keep it up.” Ruth relates: “Hearing those words from him really had an impact on me.” Indeed, “kind words are good medicine” and can encourage a single parent more than we may ever know. (Proverbs 15:4, Contemporary English Version) Can you think of specific, genuine commendation that you can give to a single parent?
Provide material assistance where necessary
Jehovah’s Law to ancient Israel included arrangements for widows and fatherless boys to obtain needed food in a dignified way. Through such provisions, these lowly ones had enough to “eat . . . and satisfy themselves.” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21; 26:12, 13) We too can, in a discreet and dignified manner, offer material assistance to a single-parent family in need. Could you drop off some food or a bag of groceries at their home? Do you have clothing that a single parent or the children could use? Or can you offer some financial assistance so that a single parent can buy certain items that the family needs?
Jehovah commanded that widows and fatherless boys be included in the nation’s annual festivals, where they could enjoy association with fellow Israelites. In fact, they were told: “You must rejoice.” (Deuteronomy 16:10-15) Similarly today, Christians are admonished to “be hospitable to one another,” providing occasions for joyful association. (1 Peter 4:9) So why not invite a single-parent family to your home for a meal? It need not be elaborate. ‘A few things are needed, or just one,’ said Jesus when he enjoyed association at the home of friends.—Luke 10:42.
Your Consideration Will Be Appreciated
Kathleen, a single parent who brought up three children, says she will never forget this sage advice, “Expect nothing; appreciate everything.” Like Kathleen, many single parents recognize the personal responsibility they have to raise their children. Therefore, they do not expect others to do for them what they must do for themselves. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that they appreciate any assistance they receive. You can contribute to their well-being and your own happiness by showing consideration for single parents, confident that Jehovah God “will reward you for what you have done.”—Proverbs 19:17, New Century Version.
Though the expression “single parent” does not appear in the Bible, the terms “widow” and “fatherless boy” are frequently used. This suggests that single parents were common even in Bible times.—Isaiah 1:17.
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When was the last time you had a single-parent family over for a meal? Why not do so soon?