One of the gifts in my life is my spiritual directors’ peer supervision group. We meet monthly to support each other in our ministries of spiritual guidance. Last week, I “presented myself” in relation to a situation that arose in a recent spiritual guidance session. This means that I shared a minimal amount of information about a conversation that took place during the session, then asked for help in exploring how that conversation had affected me personally. This caring process is designed to help each of us work things out when we’re being distracted or triggered by what happens in a session. By addressing it among my peers, I can be freer and more present to those with whom I meet.
I don’t want to share here about what happened in the session (which is covered by a mutual commitment to confidentiality). Instead, I want to ponder a question that has stuck with me since our peer group meeting. The question is a common one in ministry circles, but it has taken on new weight during a pandemic: Who cares for the caregivers?
Here, I’m looking beyond the obvious caring for family members who are sick with COVID-19. I also don’t want to focus on caring for medical professionals whose lives have been overwhelmed (that’s simply, and frankly, beyond my purview here). Instead, I want to look at caring more broadly. The pandemic has cut off many of the ways we used to care for each other—although some of those are coming back, especially now that the Centers for Disease Control has declared that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks except when traveling.
I think of simple gestures, like hugs and high-fives, that used to show support and care. I think of taking someone out for a meal in order to give them a break from being responsible for meal prep for an ill person or a large family. I think of all the caring smiles that we can’t see behind the masks.
I also think of the ways in which this pandemic has isolated us, making it harder for us to tell who needs our attention in our neighborhoods and communities. I had a conversation last week with a friend I wave to on my early morning walks. She shared how hard it’s been for her not to be able to do volunteer work during the pandemic. She has felt a loss of meaning and an increase in isolation because she hasn’t been able to be out and about, caring for others.
I could go on, but instead I invite you to think and pray about those in your circle of friends and acquaintances. Who might be suffering in silence and isolation as a result of the pandemic? Who might need a caring call, a thoughtful email, or even (if you can do it safely) an invitation to lunch?
As I conclude this Eastertide Garden of the Heart series, I realize that the fruits of our garden are intimately connected to our ability to care. Without caring attention, no garden will flourish. What care do you need to lavish on the garden of your heart, as we head into the hot summer months? What do you need in order to better care for yourself?