Not Natural

I had lunch yesterday
with my friend Katherine.
She has a degree in nursing.
She cared for her father
after he developed Alzheimers.
When her 92-year-old mother broke her hip,
Katherine rented an apartment for both of them
and cared for her mama full time for two years.
Katherine is one of the more caring people I know.
So I was taken aback when she confessed to me,
“I am not a natural caregiver.
This doesn’t come easy for me.”
My surprise must have registered on my face
because after lunch she wrote me this:
“My first inclination at most things is not noble.
I am an honest person
because I consciously choose not to lie.
I am generous
because I consciously choose not to be grasping.
Similarly, when called upon to be a caregiver,
I consciously choose to set myself aside
and see to another’s needs.
It is an intention I make.”

Not all of us are natural-born caregivers.
Some of us are inherently strong in other ways.
So what are we to do
when we’re called upon to be a caregiver,
yet we’re not instinctively made that way?
I believe, first, we can ask.
“What can I do that will help?”
we may ask the one in our care.
“What can I refrain from doing?”
“What do you need, and when, and how?”
Second, we can copy others.
What is it that natural caregivers naturally do?
What can we imitate caregiving-wise
in what we read,
what we see,
what we hear about?
Third, we can, like Katherine, clearly intend.
Aware that caregiving may not be second nature to us,
we can consciously choose to concentrate
on what this other person needs,
placing our own needs on hold temporarily.
We can intentionally decide to be a caring presence
because it is the right thing to do,
and the loving thing to do,
even if it is not the most natural thing for us to do.

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