Sometimes, I nostalgically think back to my very simple (but mostly happy) childhood and wonder whether my experiences then were training me for things that were to come.
One of my earliest memories was of visiting a camp for children with disabilities – I distinctly remember that my father was there and that the camp was somehow sponsored by either his employer or an organization with which he was affiliated.
What I can remember was the beauty of that place and the beauty of those children. I remember so very clearly that all of them were smiling, and happy.
Some of the children had visible disabilities and others did not. Some were in wheelchairs, and others were ambulatory. Some were verbal, and others were not.
It was a first encounter for me where I can remember being in the presence of and engaging with people who had disabilities – and it left an impression on my heart.
Later, I loved working with students enrolled in Special Olympics through a high school program I was part of, and enjoyed even more the time I spent coaching Special Olympic athletes at a summer camp. Sometimes I wish I could turn back the hands of time and relive some of those moments. To drink in the lessons life was teaching me at the time.
That life is fleeting. That we have only each other. And that empathy is both a practice and a choice.
It certainly feels like someone was trying to help prepare me for days as a caregiver, all these years later. I wonder if I’m the only one that feels this way?
Being a caregiver is unlike any other job, in that it isn’t really a job. It’s a vocation. A job is something you do for money, security, and power. A vocation is a calling – the word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare – which means “to call.”
And maybe even in those moments when caring for a loved one is “a job,” approaching it like a vocation helps alleviate the anxiety tied to the work of caring.
After all, we both know that in caregiving, the caring happens to be the thing.