Everyone needs help. There isn’t one of us alive who – at some time in our lives – won’t rely on help from others.
Clearly, we need help in our youth. Baby to eighteen is a time when most humans need loving care and support from a variety of individuals starting with parents and ending nowhere in sight. Caregivers, teachers, neighbors, friends, extended family members – There are just too many individuals to mention, and yes, it does take a village – or as I often call it a boatload of folks all rowing in the same direction – to help one person reach the average and usual milestone of adulthood – which often times stretches well beyond eighteen.
We need help during the middle of our lives. The help we receive is much different than the diaper-changing, hand-holding, tuck-me-in / keep-me-safe assistance we received in our youth. Often times, we need that gentle push behind us, telling us that our next steps are okay.
We need to know that there is a safety net – strong and wide – even though we have no intention of using it, hopefully. We need comfort when we make mistakes. We need to be reminded to laugh when we want to cry, and to cry when we think we can’t. We need to know that the village is still there, that it hasn’t left us, but is instead standing with us like a herd of elephants at the ready.
During the end of our lives, from what I can see, we need a substantial amount of help, too. I have watched far too many parents, aunts, uncles, friends and acquaintances reach a different life milestone, the one that is way beyond that middle part, further to what is that end part. When facing the end, we need help with almost everything, again.
It seems like we actually need more than the village and the herd. The needs become so great that it isn’t the number of individuals in the village that matters or the size of the elephants in the herd, rather a combination between the two plus time. We need the village and herd to offer buckets of time and more buckets of time. And as the journey of life becomes more and more complicated, we need them to double those time buckets again and again.
Caregiving – at any stage – youth, middle, end – isn’t easy. We all know that it requires skill, patience, attentiveness, and mental acuity that keeps us one step ahead of the people for whom we offer care. It also takes great models.
It has been my great fortune to have witnessed some of the best – a friend who cared for her dying brother, offering up nearly a year of her life for his care . . . a brother who opened up his home to my father for months. . . my parents who opened up their home (which was my home, too, at the time) to nearly every relative – young and old – who needed anything for any length of time.
I have watched friends adopt children with disabilities, relatives foster teenagers who lack family and guidance, acquaintances move from their homes and devote portions, and sometimes all, of their lives to the care for those in poverty-striken countries. One of my cousins just recently and reluctantly detailed his work with a local homeless shelter. He is out caring for those who can not care for themselves a couple miles from his home. Impressive.
After a couple of years pondering this particular issue – I am on the slow but sure train – I have learned that throughout the time that we are caring for the needs of others, we actually are in need ourselves. Though our needs as caregivers are quite different from the needs of those requiring the care, we still have needs.
We need time to refresh. This need is perhaps the most common and the most apparent. Ask any individual caring for the 0-18 set. After hours, weeks, months of meeting the needs of youth, even the best of caregivers needs break time, recess for adults, a pause moment. If this time comes with a little solitude – all the better! Sometimes it only takes a few seconds, sometimes longer to refresh, but we need to refresh.
Call it a coffee break or a vacation. Whatever it is called, I am a strong advocate for allowing folks who are going above and beyond in their offering of service to others . . . time. I am all for a national holiday that celebrates the efforts of those who so selflessly attend to the needs of others. Call is Bravo Day – and let everyone helping others rest. It is such a lovely idea, but of course, impossible to do, because we know that caregiving actually has no holiday. So much for refreshing!!
We also need some type of confirmation that what we are doing is worthy. Confirmation is different from refreshing. All of us can provide confirmation. That confirmation can emanate from the person receiving the care, from the rest of the village members who are also assisting, or from those who are simply watching from the sidelines. Regardless of source, we need to know that we are of benefit, that we help, that we make a difference.
Even if we are humble, private or modest, we still need affirmation of our efforts. That affirmation can be as small as a pat on the back, a wink of the eye, a card in the mail, or an utterance of two very powerful words that can never be used enough. We need it.
So, thank you.
Thank you to every single person who is doing anything to help anyone else. Thank you for being great parents. Thank you for being great friends. Thank you for taking care of someone who is in need. Thank you for being part of the village and a member of the herd. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. Please know that I need you. We need you. The world needs you.