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Caregiving Equals Love

My 23-year old Chinese stepdaughter has been here for nearly five years. She is young and smart with a very inquisitive mind that never stops analyzing everything. It has been a delight to teach her and watch her grow.

As is typical in China, she lived with her father after the divorce that occurred when she was just six. Also, as is common in China, she was mentally, emotionally and physically abused by her father. I won’t belabor the facts, but in China if a child ever were to call the police to complain of being beaten or abused, the police would simply tell the child they deserved it. Needless to say, when the one who is supposed to be there for you, to protect you, and to love you is the person you need protection from, it is hard not to develop some trust issues.

My daughter has traveled a great distance, both geographically and emotionally; she now takes delight in telling me “I love you,” words that are seldom uttered in the Chinese culture. I have no doubt that she in fact does love me, but I can also see that she is still working to understand the concept that “love” is more than a word.

As Christians, we are told that we are to be servants, to give unto others, and above all, that love is the most important thing. But underpinning love is trust. It turns out that if you can’t/don’t trust, you can’t truly love, because if you don’t trust, you will never be able to give to the other person without reservations. You will always be looking to see what you are getting in return for what you are giving …ROI.

About now you are probably asking yourself what all this has to do with caregiving …I am about to get to that.

In thinking through how to teach her the true meaning of love, I realized there is no better example than caregiving. The key concept is “loving servant”.

The blessing, some night say the curse, of caregiving is that you have the opportunity to be a loving servant. You do it not for money and not for what you might get in return; you do it because you love the person you are serving. The opportunity for selfless service is rare in this world. There are always “strings attached”, even in a truly loving marriage, and even if there is no expectation of an ROI, there is a tacit understanding that you will get back in some proportion to what you give. That is typically not the case when it comes to caregiving. You don’t do it because of any return you expect, you do it because you truly want to, because you love, in the full sense of the word, the person you are caring for.

For me, as I think is often the case, I did in fact receive far more than I gave. The untainted joy of knowing that I was doing for the person I loved, something that was so important to her; that I was the only person in the world that could do, could give, could serve, in exactly the way I was able to at exactly the time when she needed it most. I don’t think a caregiver ever looks in the mirror and says “I did good today”, but there is a quiet satisfaction that you really aren’t even aware of, you know you helped in however small a way, you did it freely with no expectation of an ROI, you just did it.

...Caregiving equals love.

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