Cancer came upon us in one full swoop. Often times, we get into situations that are beyond our control…’things’ just happen, like Cancer. Care-givers are often thrown into their roles on a moments notice. Cancer or other debilitating illnesses do not arrive by invitation, they just show up at your door unannounced. When you think about it, no one wants their loved one to be ill, no one wants to see their parent, spouse, child or best friend ill. Unfortunately, illness is a part of life that we all have to deal with. At a moments notice you become a care-giver, without any warning, without any preparation, without any idea of what you are supposed to do next. All of a sudden you are responsible for someones well-being because of their illness. Care-giving is a tremendous, rewarding and sometimes a frustrating experience, yet care-giving has meaning to it that is beyond approach.
While I do not often revert to my theological training, I am reminded of the Corporal Works of Mercy which are, simply stated, the seven practices of charity towards our neighbor…
1. Feed the hungry: 2. Give drink to the thirsty: 3. Clothe the naked: 4. Shelter the homeless: 5. Visit the sick: 6.Visit those in prison: 7. Bury the dead.
I see the Corporal Works of Mercy as a job descriptions for caregivers. There is an art in accomplishing these task and and in accomplishing these tasks, one has to have a caring heart. Care-giving is not a role for the faint of heart, it is not a role suited for everyone. Just as we all have different talents, skills and life avocations, being a care-giver is no different. The tryouts are usually on the fly and without much preparation, however care-giving is bound to have a profound effect on all involved in the experience.
One of the most important components of being a care-giver is that you have a caring heart. Sound kind of silly doesn’t it? But it is true! How many other ‘jobs’ monitor the feelings inside your heart? Being a care-giver is not a ‘job’ to those who do it, it’s an avocation. If you are not truly concerned about the person you are caring for, then it might be a good idea for you to take a close look at what you are doing for that person. There is a high rate of burn out in care-giving; care-giving is an intense experience where you often surrender your self for the needs of someone else. Finding that happy balance is truly a slippery slope. The art of care-giving always starts with a feeling from inside heart.