When the caregiving task is felt and known to belong to us, we take on the responsibility of it. It happens almost despite us. At the core an inner response, and inherent ability to respond, takes up the challenge that we will never know the full dimensions of. It’s like finding oneself in mid-air before plunging into deep waters and beginning to swim.
Caregiving that arises through obligation, arm-twisting, or people pleasing is not true caregiving. It’s a way to assuage doubt and to keep other people’s expectations and criticisms from overwhelming us. There are many ego-based reasons to do what we are not called to do.
Under those auspices we will not have the deep resources of true response-ability. The caregiving that truly belongs to us is not only necessary for the person we are caring for, but also for us as well. It will make us whole in an inexplicable way.
All kinds of caregiving may look the same on the surface. Caregiving, as a profession for which one is paid, can be heartfelt. It may not seem on par with voluntary caregiving in a family or for a friend, but at the core it is the quality of care that matters. Those who are getting the care can feel the difference. In one they are objectified. They are treated like a job to be done and gotten through. In the other they can sense themselves as persons who are valued. Person to person, response to response, such caregiving can feel like a gift from heaven. Even in the midst of pain, fatigue, and the seeming endlessness of the task, the gift of responding shines and sheds a light between giver and receiver.
Looking at response a little more deeply, we can see that it hinges on being present in the moment.
Present, moment-to-moment, our lives become momentous. To live this way is to live a deep human capacity, one that requires something simple and very hard – willingness to pay attention beyond our own concerns. We have to be present to respond. Maybe we could say that it is only when we are present that we truly are persons.
The rest of time we are on an automatic program simply functioning and not really alive. We are in a kind of limbo.
The difference one feels when someone is truly present to us is a profound difference. It is a gift in which we are mutually made real.
How sad it is when I discover how often the only world that matters to me is the one I manufacture.
You are always here, and I am so often not here. I see how much of my concerns are about me and mine, and they distance me from Your love.
Bring me back. Bring me into personhood again, into a deep response to You and to others whom You love and who are meant for me to love.
Let me not live an automatic life. Help me to be present, to use my heart and hands in conscious care.