Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia
Caregivers know this.
There is no glory in being a caregiver - no fame, no riches. To be fair, many people don’t choose to become caregivers - it is thrust upon them. And others do it because they intuitively know the above quote is true. Either way, whether they chose it or not, whether they thought they were capable of doing the job or not, there they are...giving care.
A caregiver's day is filled with a hundred little inglorious moments. But hopefully it is filled with wonderful moments too. A smile, a hug, a hand asking to be held.
This is called love.
I tell you this because sometimes I wonder if some of us might start to forget what love looks like out in the world.
There always seems to be too many examples of hate to see and hear about.
Experts tell us a very important part of being a caregiver is avoiding something called compassion fatigue. This is when a caring person keeps giving of themselves until they are completely spent. When they have no more to give they can start to show signs of illness. But if they don’t realise this they just keep going. They need to become aware of their own needs and to find ways of replenishing themselves.
I think this is amazing. In this world where we see so many people thoughtlessly taking, there are some people, hidden away, who give so much they get overwhelmed by it.
But this is not a healthy thing for those givers. It makes me stop and think about how much, or how little, I give.
Coming home from a busy day of work to be confronted by the latest act of hate on the news is not a great way of replenishing ourselves. Whether we have been giving compassionately all day or not.
Most of us don’t have much control over what happens out there. And we don’t really want to be kept in the dark.
But what about the drive home?
Have you ever not given way to let someone into your line of traffic? Not a big thing, you may not have given it a second thought. Perhaps you don’t consider this an act of hate. But was it love? Maybe this person waiting to get into the traffic was a caregiver? Maybe you could have offered them something so small, you would never have missed it?
Do you get frustrated at someone being too slow at the supermarket. Do you give them a smile, try to help? Or are you moving too fast to notice anyone else in the store?
I know I am not a natural giver myself. My husband Jonathan is. Sometimes I can get quite frustrated with the number of people he will let go ahead of us in traffic or at the supermarket - it feels like everyone, I want my turn!
I can see sometimes these givers need to be reminded to take.
A giver doesn’t have to stop to think about what the right thing to do is. They just put the other person first. They are not calculating their share.
I don’t think I’m a terrible person for not being as big a giver as Jonathan. But I do think people like myself need to be aware that we don’t need to be quite so protective of ‘our share’.
It may take practice, but if we slow down a little and give ourselves time to think of 'the right thing to do for someone else’ we may just manage to do it more.
And those of you who are in the habit of giving all the time. You know you really are entitled to your share. You need to slow down too. Then maybe you will give yourself time to think of ‘the right thing to do for yourself’ and keep yourself healthier and happier.
If you are a caregiver who hasn’t been taking the time to look after yourself I would advise you to have a look at the Carers NZ website for some tips on replenishing yourself.