True Giving

When her mother
became an invalid,
Dorothy rented an apartment
for the two of them.
They lived together
for two years
until her mother died.
Dorothy kept house for them, and as she did so,
her mother taught her much about housekeeping
that Dorothy had never known.
Dorothy did all the hands-on kitchen work,
while her mother planned their menus,
provided recipes and shopping lists,
and helped her daughter become a better cook
and, more importantly, a healthier cook.
This was the period, Dorothy says,
when her 90-year-old mother finished raising her.
She told me recently,
“My mother did so much for me during those years
when I was her caregiver.
Today I still call upon that wisdom
she instilled in me during that time.
I ask you: who gave to whom?”

In most of our caregiving relationships,
we who are called the caregivers have much
we can receive from the one in our care.
However young or old, they have wisdom from which we can benefit.
Like Dorothy’s mother, they may have specific skills
they would love to pass on.
They have a perspective on life
that is different from ours—
one that may inform our own
and perhaps help round it out.
The possibilities are many.
What values can we be taught?
What ideals might we be given to carry?
What blessing might we receive?
What legacy might we be given to hold
before handing it off to another,
perhaps to someone who will one day
be doing exactly what we’re doing—
learning how true giving also involves receiving
and how true caring is a grace all its own.

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