To care requires effort. We are a medium-large size family. Mom and dad, 4 kids, live in grandpa, a dog and a cat. We have a house and a yard. We are part of a church community, a homeschool community, and the greater civic community. To keep all the wheels greased and turning smoothly requires that we care and we make the effort to do what needs to be done. Why, in our society, does it sometimes seem so hard to care? We want downtime and me time…I want these things too. We want to outsource our care giving roles to the lowest bidder, because becoming caretakers ourselves is exhausting and messy.
So why should we slow down our lives, park our cars, turn off our devices, and take the time to care? (I fully see the irony that the last sentence was typed on my computer.) We need to care because it builds community.
For many years I did not want a family dog, because a dog was one more living thing I would need to feed and clean up after. My youngest girl wore me down a year ago, and for her birthday we adopted a dog from the humane society. When I looked at my daughter my heart was telling me how much she needed something to love and care for. She did not have a baby brother or sister. A dog allowed her care for another living creature. Does she fulfill this role perfectly? No. When we adopted the dog we did it as a family. We all share the responsibility, although the kids own most of it. When we are out walking the dog I notice how much easier it is to strike up conversations with others in the neighborhood. Our pets give us something in common, something to talk about. This dog, that I viewed as burden has built bridges for community into our lives.
We also have a cat. The cat pretty much takes care of herself. We put out food and water and she handles the rest. The kids love her though…another beloved family pet who takes care of us by keeping unwanted rodents at bay.
Yard work is another way in which caring builds community. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I don’t love yard work. I would much rather be reading, blogging, drinking coffee, taking a nap, or just about anything else. But I am thankful because yard work builds a sense of family community. We all get out there and get it done together. Some good life lessons are interwoven. I tell the kids that we will all work hard for an hour and then we can stop, no matter if we are done or not. We are always amazed at how much work can be accomplished in an hour of concentrated effort, proving that many hands make light work and that the hardest part is just getting started.
Also, I am always amazed by how many neighbors I meet, that I would never see otherwise, when I am out working in the rose garden. This small corner of our yard adds a patch of beauty to the neighborhood, and many people have expressed appreciation for it.
Church and homeschool community life also require investment and caring. Being involved in groups with other people often becomes difficult and messy. Our church is small, so most people work hard and are invested. We try to reach out to the community by preparing lunch on Sunday to serve the homeless (and anyone else who would like to join), distributing care packages, and providing a place where people can find rest and prayer. All of this is a lot of work though. When just a few people are responsible for all the tasks, burn out is a very real possibility. But reaching out with love and community is a central mission of the church.
Our local Classical Conversation homeschool group is such a blessing to our family. We find academic support, prayer support, friendship, and fellowship. Keeping this going is also a huge amount of work. The group is run, and the classes are tutored, by parents, who are all simultaneously homeschooling their own kids. For the past two years I have tutored classes while managing our own school and home. Finding balance is a challenge. I want to do a great job for the students in my class and I want to do a great job for my children at home. I also want to be supportive and available for my husband and meet the needs well of my elderly father who lives with us. This year I am praying about stepping down from a paid position, but continuing to serve as a volunteer. Keeping the community strong is still a huge priority. However, investing in those entrusted to me at home is the priority right now. Sometimes to care well we need to step back and give ourselves time to breathe and rest. Then we can really have something life giving and affirming to offer those in our community.
Elder care is another sacred role entrusted to our care. It is difficult in so many ways. Perhaps our hearts are saddened by seeing someone we love weakened and in pain. Perhaps old hurts and wounds are reopened as the people we once depended on become dependent on us and are brought more closely into our adult and family life. But God never leaves us or forsakes us. We have opportunity for the balm healing and restoration on raw relationships. We have the opportunity to share God’s unconditional love to those who may not yet know it. Many elderly are isolated and alone. It is so important that we reach out to them and offer them love and a place in community: the family community, the church community, whatever type of community we have to offer. Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
How is caring and community built into your life?
#7 Days of Daily Post Challenge: Day 2