Without Realizing

I was once the speaker
at a recognition banquet
for hospice professionals.
I offered some general ideas
for healthy, effective caregiving.
I lauded them for their work.
Afterward a man introduced himself—
he was the husband of one of the nurses
who had been honored for her service.
“I never thought of myself as a caregiver,”
he said to me, “until I heard your talk.
I’m just a jeweler.
My wife is the caregiver.”
As I asked him a few questions,
I learned he and his wife
have a disabled teenage son
who is unable to walk.
This father helps with the boy’s daily needs,
lifting him and carrying him often.
He often takes the boy to the jewelry store
where he has converted a back room into a space
where the son can enjoy his days
while the father works nearby.
“I never thought of myself as a caregiver,” he said,
“but now I think possibly I am one.”

When we have had no specialized training,
when we’re given no formal job description,
when we receive no official recognition
that’s what we do and who we are,
we may not see ourselves as true caregivers.
When others do not validate us in this role,
we may not validate ourselves.
But let’s be clear:
Even without credentials,
we can still be true caregivers.
Even if we do not feel prepared,
we can still do strong work.
Even if we wonder about our abilities,
we can still make a vital difference
in another’s life.
Even if we’re not always aware
of the value or significance of our actions,
we are still giving care and spreading care.
We’re adding a loving influence,
to those nearby,
to those further away,
and equally important for this time we’re in,
to the universe at large.

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