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Posted: April 08, 2005

Spiritual Caregiving

Generous Wisdom Shared to Make Your Life Richer

(Editor's Note: The readers of Spirituality & Health magazine are generous in their sharing of the wisdom and ways they employ to make their lives richer and their daily challenges more manageable -- something every elder-caregiver can identify with. Here is a sampling compiled by Steve Lawler is an Episcopal priest, ethics consultant, and writer.)

Listen for the change that wants to happen.
When life feels uncertain, when it is dark, unsettling, confusing, sad, or troubling, I have found great comfort in repeating those words and creating quiet time to listen. Moving into change feels positive and good, rather than frightening and sad.

-- Lorraine LaHuta, New York City

Feel it.
My name, Shakti, means energy -- creative energy, sexual energy, life energy -- in Sanskrit. So that is what I wish to radiate. When I'm exhausted and my body aches from overuse, I feel the pain and know I am alive. Each sensation has a meaning and you can be friends with it. Don't reject it. Accept it. Embrace it all and move on. When there is too much going on around you, sit and take a deep breath. Feel the breath pass through your body and embrace each pore. Feel the warmth it brings. And remember that it all comes from within you. The universe is in your soul.

-- Shakti, Japan

Life is messy, and everybody is weird.
Together these seem to capture the strange realities of human existence. We cannot assume thoughts, motives, or actions about others, but the miracle is that connection can happen in the midst of this mess, between all these weird and wounded people (myself included), and that transformation can seep through, again and again and again.

-- The Rev. Deborah Patterson, St. Louis, Missouri

Every act of love adds to the balance of love in the world.
This is my motto and a life-way that I adopted after reading about the life and theology of Thérèse of Lisieux. Life is a balance of light and darkness, good and evil, positivity and negativity. In this time of war, I often feel helpless. I commit small acts of love: helping someone find their way in the hospital where I work, picking up garbage from a sidewalk, giving praise and compliments, even simply making someone smile.

-- Mary Bubenzer, Madison, Wisconsin

Normal is a transient state between crises.
In the past in turbulent situations, I wasted a lot of time and energy waiting and longing for things to "get back to normal." Once I realized that normal doesn't last, I became more adept at living through crisis without longing for normalcy -- whatever that is. I now see that what I really need is to find periods of calm, even if I have to create them, in an ever-changing world.

-- Carole Martin, Kingsport, Tennessee

The best way out is through.
This says it all. Persevere.

-- Natalie Zaino, Farmingville, New York

Life is like a puzzle that we are constantly building.
The problem comes when you start looking at all the other puzzles being built around you and decide that some of the pieces would look good in yours. You start picking up pieces from other people's puzzles and try to fit them into yours. You end up bending their pieces and ruining your picture.

-- Brett Osborn, Durban, South Africa

Always tell the truth, but don't always be telling it.
My mother taught me this, and I have tried to practice it. If you always tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said, because the truth is always the same. But if you know a truth about another person, you don't always need to tell it, especially if it is going to cast doubt on their character.

-- Barbara Poage, Springfield, Missouri

Ask the only question that matters.
I often use this practice in my daily life as a parish nurse/health minister. When I am frustrated, angry, inattentive, or preoccupied with the daily injustices I witness about me, I reflect on what a wise old priest taught me: At the end of our life when that day of accountability comes and you are standing at those pearly gates, God will ask you but one question: "Did you care?" As I try to live a compassionate life in this world where competition, control, and power seem to be the order of the day, there is a little voice in my head that keeps me grounded in why we are here and asks the only question that matters -- Did you care?

    -- Stephanie L. Ulrich, Omaha, Nebraska

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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