Learning to receive
As a pastoral caregiver and as someone who is pursuing Chaplaincy after I graduate, I love being in a caregiving role. I find the work of Chaplaincy – being present to support the spiritual, mental, and emotional needs of those under my care – to be very life-giving and affirming for me. I’m often in awe of the wonderful wisdom and insight of those I care for and I cherish the gifts of wisdom that patients pass on to me as we form relationships. Although difficult, it is a rewarding vocation and I find great purpose and meaning through this type of work.
Recently, however, my role as a caregiver became reversed and I became the one who required care. After completing an intense workout, I found myself in the hospital for a week, suffering from severe muscle breakdown in my legs. Besides feeling foolish that my first time in the ER as a patient was a result of working out too hard, I also felt helpless. For the first time since I was a child, I had to depend on everyone else for care. Physically and emotionally I was vulnerable as I wrestled with needing assistance for even simple activities of daily living. I remember wishing this time of illness was over, wanting nothing more than to be back on my feet, back in my home, and back to life as normal! And yet, my body needed time to heal and gain back its strength, and I was placed in a position of receiving.
With illness, we are often forced to accept care from others, simply because we don’t have the strength to care for ourselves as we normally would. As I reflect on my ER experience, however, I realize that an ability to receive care and accept help from others shouldn’t only be received out of circumstance (when you are forced into it) but should be welcomed when anyone wants to lend a ‘helping hand.’ Personally, receiving help is difficult sometimes, because I feel like I should be able to do it on my own. In reality however, I need and require helping hands, people who care enough to see when my load is too heavy and offer support the best way they know how.
During my stay at the hospital, I was fortunate enough that my parents lived close by. They stayed with me, day and night, sleeping on hospital cots, eating hospital food, and helping me shuffle my way through the halls as I regained my strength. I had visitors and phone calls from my Wake Divinity Community offering support, encouragement, and prayers for health and wholeness. And I had professors, who even now, are still concerned with my full recovery and offer me any support that I may need in the remainder of this semester. All around me were ‘helping hands’ wanting, willing, and ready to offer me the spiritual, emotional, and physical care I needed. All I had to do was receive the gifts they had to offer.
As I was visiting one of my residences at Arbor Acres today, I remarked on her wonderful wisdom and great insight that she so generously shared with those she came in contact with. Mrs. Ross* (name changed for anonymity) quickly responded that it gives her great joy to offer others the knowledge that she has gained through her life experiences. “I feel that it is part of my purpose, one of the reasons I’m still here,” she exclaimed with a smile! “I freely offer up to others what I know, what I’ve learned, and experienced, but it is up to them to receive my offering or not.”
Kristin serves as an Admissions Associate and is from Winston Salem, N.C. While at Wake, she has continued to be affirmed in her love of pastoral care and chaplaincy ministries, and hopes to continue pursuing this path after graduation through a chaplaincy residency.
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