Monday, April 15, 2013

The Privilege of Caring

It is a privilege to be able to be concerned about the problems of the larger community and world.  I used to think it was only a responsibility.  And while I still do feel that for Christians, praying for the larger community and world as well as working for justice, peace and reconciliation for the larger community and world are still centrally important, I now realize at some level that it is from a place of privilege that we can do that.  It is from a place of privilege, both in terms of time, energy and commitment that a person can dedicate themself to the eradication of the problems in the world, to the care for and of God's people, to living lives that serve others.  I have functioned from a different place over the last 2 1/2 years, one in which there were times when it was all I could do to get my three children off to school wearing appropriate clothes and having eaten breakfast, and gotten myself off to work.  There have been days when "simple" things like getting the children's hair and teeth brushed before school are tasks that are simply too big, when getting to the grocery store to just buy a gallon of milk required a major scheduling overhaul, when getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night or being able to go for a 15 minute walk to get some exercise were understood to be the luxuries that, in fact, they are, even while they may be "necessary" for one's health.  The church's Tai Chi instructor made the comment to me last week that surely I could squeeze in 10 minutes a day for practice.  And for most of us middle class folk, I think carving 10 minutes out of television watching or 10 minutes out of our primping activities or 10 minutes out of talking on the phone or playing on facebook, or sleeping eight hours a night would be an appropriate consideration.  But this is not the life that everyone leads, and I have a much better understanding of that now.  There was a good long period of time during which I never watched TV or movies (because there was no time to do this), was unable to find time to read a book, was not on facebook, and was still only getting minimal sleep.  Every minute of every day was simply taken up with the necessities of living, providing for my kids, working, surviving.
      I am not complaining.  I am deeply grateful that I had work that could support my family, that we never faced the financial challenges that many families with tragedies have to deal with, that I did not have to move or try to find extra work or ship my children off to live with others.  I am beyond grateful for those realities.  And I am actually grateful for the experience, for a time, of not being able to do much beyond survival as well.   As I move into a more balanced, centered place where I do make time again for walks, I do have time to watch episodes of "Downton Abby", talk or write to friends, reconnect on facebook, and do find time to learn what is happening in the world, in the news, and to speak about it, to write letters to congress people, to work for justice and peace, I am grateful for the time that these things were not possibilities for several reasons.  First, I can no longer judge others who do not have the time or energy to be more involved in caring for the world.  I get it now.  While I used to not understand why people would not tackle issues that impact their own lives and the lives of their kids in such profound ways, I do understand now that there are times and situations in which all a person can do is survive. I think about single parents (mostly mothers) who work several jobs to support their kids and I understand why that is all they can manage at this point in their lives.  I get it, I have compassion for it, and I have great respect for those who do the work of caring for their families at the cost of giving up pretty much everything else.  While I have not chosen this, I also have more compassion for people who partner quickly and easily in attempts to get help and to raise themselves out of that place where all they can do is work and care for kids.  Additionally, I have a much, much deeper daily appreciation for the little breaks I do get in a day.  I am deeply grateful for the privilege of being able to care for more than just my family and my work.  I recognize that the ability to keep a blog is a luxury, that talking with friends, HAVING friends is not a given, but a gift, that the ability to hear what others are experiencing, to delight in their joys or to grieve with their sorrows - that again, these are gifts - deep, deep gifts that cannot be taken for granted - ever.  And finally, I found that the time away from the problems of the world has shown me what Jesus meant when he said, "the poor will always be with you."  I return to the world and see that the challenges are the same - they remain and beg for our help whenever we can attend to them, whenever we do feel that urging and deep call to respond and act towards the creation of a more loving and whole world.  For all of this I am grateful.  I see much more clearly that our responsibilities are our privileges, and that not all are given the same gifts and challenges.  I am thankful for my gifts and challenges and pray for the strength to accept them both with grace.