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Caregiving: A Metaphor for National Healing

Woman walking with an elderToday a friend told me that this year has been like 1918, 1929, and 1968 all rolled into one.

Marked by a pandemic, economic instability, violence, and demonstrations, 2020 has been a year unlike any I’ve seen in my lifetime.

People everywhere are hurting. It’s as if our entire nation is mourning.

As I contemplate what must be done, I can’t help but consider how caregiving exemplifies the healing that our society obviously needs.

In beholding the care receiver, the caregiver looks beyond scales of social identity to see a human being.

The caregiver meets the care receiver as he or she is. At that intersection of lives, a new type of relationship begins. It is a relationship of caring, giving, and receiving.

Recognizing the human above the circumstances, the caregiver engages in a series of personalized actions that demonstrate understanding, kindness, and genuine concern for the care receiver. Fully exposed, the care receiver welcomes the caregiver, and if possible, manages to find ways to reciprocate kindness. Occasionally, in poetic moments of tenderness, the care receiver can actually become the one who gives care.

As conditions change, the caregiver and care receiver continue to be present for each other. Aware of one another’s obvious imperfections, the caregiver and care receiver develop a mutual acceptance and, at times, admiration for each other. Their relationship is rooted in human vulnerability, compassion, and trust.

The events of this year have amply shown our human vulnerability. As a society, we can commit ourselves to caring, giving, and receiving across divisions of race, gender, politics, age, COVID-19 status, and so on, because we are all human beings. If we extend ourselves in the spirit of caregiving, today’s challenges will lead us to a greater sense of compassion and trust in one another.