Strengthening our capacity to care

by Various Writers

Happy Valentine's Day from Room 217

    Pablo Casals, the great cellist said “the capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest meaning and significance.” As a virtuoso, Casals was acquainted with care, the kind that brings precise fingering, bowing, and flexibility, demonstrating virtuosity, seasoned over years of skillful, mindful practice and performance. He suggests that care is not merely technique, but rather quintessential to human purpose. Significance in life comes from the extent of one’s ability to care. If that is true then the pursuit of increasing stamina to care yields compelling dividends. Caring for people implies concern, kindness, love, warm affection and approval. It may also suggest oversight or charge for the safety, well-being and prosperity of a loved one. Caregiving is the act of extending oneself to share the burdens of others. Family members care by virtue of relationship (i.e. mother, grandparent). Professional caregivers have dedicated training in specific caregiving skills (i.e. nurse, therapist, PSW). Volunteer caregivers have some training and knowledge and give of their time to come alongside others to share in care. Compassion lies at the heart of giving care. Empathy, shouldering and presence come from qualities of the heart, often prompted by personal experiences. One learns to care by receiving care and then is more able to pass it on. Regulations and litigations are well-intentioned efforts that can impede our capacity to come alongside and offer personalized attention due to increased reporting, system compliance and political correctness. How do we strengthen our capacity to care working in medical or educational systems that seem to mitigate against it? Here are 5 ways to encourage our caring capacity.

  1. Show up. Even when it is tempting not to, time spent journeying alongside another person is an act of care.
  2. Be present. Give up your own agenda for a while and give mindful attention to the needs of the other.
  3. Listen attentively. Listening is not just hearing the spoken word. Loud messages may be unspoken. Pay attention.
  4. Attend details. We care about the details of what is important to us. What are the details that are important to the other?
  5. Be replenished. Genuine care comes from your heart and soul. We need spiritual inspiration and refreshment.

  On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love for those we care about. Care well. Love deeply. As Casals said, that is where we will find the most profound meaning of life.