I took a few days off from work last week. It was a bit overdue. I told my residents that when I wore black pants to work every day for a solid week and didn’t brush my hair any of those days that it was probably symbolic of my attitude and maybe I should take a few days away. No one disagreed with me.
We spent a few days at a retreat at the lake. Some lovely pastors we know invited us and we took the kids. There was a lot of doing not so much. I brought my obsessively large stack of notecards and began to fill my days with scratching out barely legible notes to many of those people that impact me on a daily and weekly basis. I enjoy writing but also enjoy picking out just the right card, putting the stamp on and making sure my address book is up to date. It’s a ritual that puts my heart and mind in a good place. We came home and then I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend with wonderful friends who took the time to celebrate me growing a year older.
I have been reminded this past week what it really means to care for someone. I think we all feel pretty good about caring ABOUT someone but what does it mean to care FOR someone? Pastor Jon and Pastor Jason do it well, especially crisis care. People are sick, people are hurting, people are dying physically or emotionally…they come to their side and care deeply for them in ways that impact not only that person but their family and friends. Crisis care is deeply important. In medicine we often see people in crisis and are able to come and assist in the restoration of healing and wholeness. Crisis care can be very simple for physicians such as prescribing an antibiotic to someone who is sick and hurting or it can be very difficult at times such as performing a surgery on someone very sick or dealing with a worsening chronic illness. But the thing about crisis care is that you are very aware of the person’s needs. You get the page, the phone call, the text. Your mind starts working even before you look to see from whom or from where the noise came. (For Pastor Jason and I when the electronics start beeping at certain hours of the day or night we give each other “the look.”)
What is much more difficult is to care deeply for those NOT in crisis. To create a culture where we practice the art of caring on a regular basis. Why? I think because when we truly care for people we change the world for the better. To care for everyone who walks through the door of my office even if it is the 15th time I have seen them, even if it is a “routine” visit, even if I think I know all that is going on in their life. I heard a beautiful sermon today reminding me what we are capable of when we truly care deeply for others. When we refuse to keep each other at arms length and move close enough to see the worry lines creep in on someones face, to hear the anxious tremor in their voice, to notice the joy in their eyes. To take their hand, to give a hug and know that caring for others deeply will not only change them but it will change us too.
I write notes not only because the task itself brings me great joy but because it makes me carefully think about who I see and interact with on a regular basis. To examine the people around me who are bobbing along with the waves of life and have the opportunity to remind them that they are cared for deeply. I challenge my friends in healthcare to care deeply for their patients and coworkers, despite the struggle just to keep up with the enormous work we are tasked with. I challenge my friends at church and beyond to move away from a life of fear of what others will do or say and move to place where we ask questions, send notes, have coffee and listen. Listen and care deeply for our neighbors, our friends, and even our enemies and our opposites. So the next time you see a someone wearing all their black pants in one week or who has unbrushed hair 5 days in a row, it may not be a crisis, but an opportunity to care deeply for another.