Man! Jesus Christ could deliver a line. Ask any Christian and they will have a favorite Jesus quote. Heck, ask any non-Christian. Even if they deny him as the Son of God, they can’t deny the man had game.
My absolute favorite words written in red are, “It is finished.”
Yes. It. Is.
I’m not going to focus on that one today. It would make for a very short blog post in regards to caregiving so off we go to #2.
I’m going to condense my next quote. Break it down to the four words that changed me the most. The moment I heard these words as a child, they were branded in my brain.
“…the least of these…”
Let me give you a quick explanation.
Jesus made it VERY clear how to treat the weak, the broken, the hurting. He didn’t use a parable. He didn’t have a Broadway production with a Technicolor coat and back up dancers. This wasn’t a suggestion.
It was an order.
When you see the least of these, get your mucking boots on and get dirty.
Based on my chosen career and the populations I’ve worked with during my career, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that these four words resonate with me.
Recently, a friend of mine labeled my passion for the elderly a “gift”. I loved the compliment. Admittedly, I would have loved it more to be known as being gifted for my vocal range, culinary skills, and/or my flawless pirouette, but alas, here we are.
I am gifted when dealing with the elderly. Guess what? So are you. Every single one of you. You just may not know it yet.
Now, this is where we are going to get real for a minute. This blog is not sponsored by the YMCA. We all don’t get the same ribbon. My ribbon… probably bigger than yours. It should be. I get paid for it to be bigger. Why is it necessary to point that out? Because unrealistic encouragement is just as damaging as no encouragement.
I’m in no way saying quit your job as an accountant and become the Gandhi of caregiving. I want you to see that right now, in this very moment, you are the exact person that someone else desperately needs.
Now let’s figure out how you’re gifted.
I have yet to meet a person that doesn’t have a soft spot; a group of people or cause that hits them in the heart, a population or circumstance that you want to see a change or elevation in. (This is a pretty impressive statement considering I’ve taken care of my fair share of narcissists and sociopaths in my younger days.)
Lets tick off some examples.
Maybe what hits your heart isn’t the cross they have to carry, but the cross they consciously picked up.
Nurses (this one should rank high for all of you)
Or maybe it’s the circumstance around individuals that brings you to your knees.
Now imagine I wrote each of those individual words on it’s own slip of paper and threw them all into a bag. It doesn’t matter which one I pull out of the bag, I can make any of them work.
(Disclaimer: I did not write them on pieces of paper and put them in a bag. Come on! I have crap to do. I did however close my eyes and point at my computer screen.)
FIREFIGHTERS IT IS!
So firefighters are your kryptonite? (And not in a Magic Mike sort of way!) Their plight softens your heart more than any other. Their courage. The ridiculous hours they put in. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves to save another.
Now get ready. I’m going to blow your mind as if your brain has been feasting on sauerkraut for the last week. You are going to understand how gifted you are with the elderly in 3…2…1.
Firefighters get old.
(Imagine me staring at you as if I just changed the rotation of the earth.)
Whoever you have a heart for now, whatever it is that gets your feet moving and ideas flowing, they, by the grace of God, will grow old. They need your support even once they have fallen off society’s radar.
They are still victims with scars. Still single moms worrying about their kids. Addicts struggling with shame. They are still teachers ready to impart wisdom or officers that would still die for you if they could. They are still those people, just a bit watered down.
And if I’ve learned anything from the brewing industry, watered down still gets it done.
So how am I doing with applying this concept as a caregiver with my dad?
I’ve come before ya’all more than once presenting my failures, but not today!
I. Am. Killing. IT.
For several reasons, this was by far the easiest concept for me to apply as a daughter.
1- I’ve always understood that my dad had a life before I came along. I think having a brother significantly older than me always worked to drive that home for me.
2- My dad is a hoot! I complain about his stubbornness, but as long as it’s not directed at me, it’s hilarious.
3- My dad knows stuff. Random stuff. Some important, some not so much. It’s always fun to ask him questions.
4- My dad has seen some shit. (Mom, I know I could have used another word there, but once I explain, you’ll ignore it.) My dad was a white, scholarship, ball player in the south during segregation… Some. Shit.
5- My dad is a dying breed. No part of his life has been hampered with gadgets and screens. He has stories. Real stories that were lived, not Googled.
6- I love my dad’s voice and laugh. I’m always eager to hear them. If it means hearing stories I have heard 100 times, so be it.
Though the young man my dad once was is still inside of him, mulligans have to be given.
I repeat myself when he can’t hear me. Break down questions until he understands what I’m asking. Enjoy the silence in the long pauses when he struggles to find the words or silently decipher the meaning when he uses the wrong word.
The man he’s become demands alterations to be made, but it does not erase the man he once was. I get that, and account for it every moment.
So back to the ribbon scenario and pending awards ceremony I’ve conjured in my head.
Some of you are going to feel defeated believing, “Lori is going to take the gold again.”
I’m currently getting my ass handed to me by the neighbor guy!
My dad’s neighbor frequently stops over. Spends a few minutes talking. Helps dad get his chainsaw working (because 82-year-olds frequently have chain saw emergencies). He may bring a beer or two or check the tire pressure on the car.
Nothing earth shattering, but man, does my dad love it.
He sits in his plastic chair, in front of the garage, and waits. I pull in the driveway full of smiles and love and he waves me off. He’s waiting on the neighbor.
No matter how good I am at “seeing” my dad, it will never mean as much as the neighbor seeing him. I’m bound to Big Jim. If not by law, at the very least, by genetics. In my dad’s mind, I have to see him. The neighbor doesn’t.
Being noticed by someone who didn’t have to look his way means everything to my dad.
Maybe the old-farmer type hits his neighbor in the heart. Maybe, he feels for a guy that has a grown daughter that runs her mouth like it’s a John Deer. It really doesn’t matter.
They are friends.
Speaking for myself, and I would wager a few of you, when I have felt like the least in my life, it only took one good friend to make me feel like the most.