Being a caregiver over a long period of time can be tough going, but there are some things that those on the long haul do well. We need to applaud the long haul caregiver.
There are some people that I want to stand and applaud.
I love the game of cricket and when a player has done exceptionally well the crowd will rise one by one and cheer their performance.
The player may raise his bat in acknowledgment, but there is no theatrics of tearing off his shirt, doing cartwheels or any other self-aggrandizement.
After the applause, he takes his bat and faces the next ball.
Some of the people who read this blog are those that need a slow and deliberate clap of applause.
Well done, good and faithful servant.
They are the ones who have been on the long haul mission of caring for someone. It could be a spouse, parent, child, family member, a friend.
There may be a disability, an addiction, an illness. But over a long period of time have stuck close and carried at times a load that nobody ever sees.
It can be tough, unthankful work—a place of giving up sacrificially some of their dreams and desires for the sake of another.
Perhaps you know someone like this. It may even be you. What observations have you made? Email me with your comments.
Seven observations of the long haul caregiver
1. They have relationships with a few supportive others
We can’t do life on our own. Long haul people have someone who they can connect with. It could be a group of other people who know what they are going through.
A group such as Al-Anon for those supporting someone with an addiction to alcohol. It might be a group you find on Facebook.It will be someone somewhere where they won’t feel alone.
Where they can both vent their frustrations and vacuum up encouragement and hope.
God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6
2. They make a life for themselves
Long haul people have discovered that they need to have something they can call their own. It could be a hobby, enjoyment of music, a favorite author.
It will be a place where they can go to that offers some relief, a ‘stepping away’ from the coal face of support.
3. They know what is in their control and what is not
Life will throw many challenges at the Long haul caregiver.
People will make decisions that a caregiver has no control over.
There is a ‘stepping aside’ from the emotional turmoil others can cause and a recognition many things are beyond one’s control.
They focus on what they can control – themselves and how they will respond.
4. They have lines of love and respect (boundaries)
Long haul caregivers have come to know themselves well and know what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
There is an ability to point out the consequences when a line is crossed and enforce it. They know that no one is perfect, but that expectations need to be negotiated with others. There is an ability to care for themselves by making clear the lines of love and respect.
5. They recognize there is a bigger story going on
The life of a Long Haul caregiver can become so drawn into itself that it feels like the suction of a black hole.
The needs of the other cavitate you into losing sight of something good and glorious. God delights in the service of others.
There is a bigger story going on, and we, for the most part, are unaware of it.
The invite is to perform to the best of your ability (not others) in this unfolding story.
6. They do the inner work
Bitter or better.
Long haul caregivers seem to fall somewhere on a spectrum of being bitter or better. The bitterness of having to do this, people not doing what they want, agencies are failing them, lost dreams, and hopes.
The list can, and generally does, go on and on.
Then some seem to have become better through the experience. Sure they recognize injustices and hurts, but they seem to have invited and allowed the struggle to do some inner work on themselves.
This is a place where you learn about yourself.
Much like how a pearl is grown within an oyster.
‘An irritating substance (like a piece of grit) enters the oyster, prompting the animal to start protecting itself. It does so by secreting a lustrous organic material known as nacre to encapsulate the irritant. Once the irritant has been covered with enough layers of nacre, it’s like the irritant never existed. In that nuisance’s place, a precious organic gem forms’.Source
7. They have a compelling vision
We can so often get stuck in the difficulty of the day that we lose sight of the millimeter ministry, and that little things add up over time.
At times I have written a letter for a person where I have asked Spirit to prompt me with words that might describe the person in a few years.
It’s not a ‘you will have a husband, a dream house, etc.’ but more so character qualities.
When we can hold onto a vision of what could be possible and focus on the millimeter, even micrometer steps of change, then a vision can and does become a reality.
Grit and grace
Going the distance is a ministry of grit and grace, and I stand and applaud you.
If you know someone who is a long haul caregiver, buy them a coffee, send them a card. In someway acknowledge them and what they are doing.
Quotes to consider
- Be there for others but never leave yourself behind Dodinsky
- We get in trouble whenever we forget that God never gave us the power or the right to change anyone. That is His job! Michael Liimatta
- Do for One What You Wish You Could Do for Everyone Andy Stanley
Questions to answer
- What observations have you made about those caring for others over a long period?
- Who do you know that could be considered as a long haul caregiver?
- In what ways can we say ‘Well done good and faithful servant’?
Image cc: Paz Arando