This spring I was asked to make a presentation to the Caring Ministry Team at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater on “Caring Presence, Caring Words, and Caring Acts.” Because caring is something that all people do many times in their lives, whether affiliated with a congregation or not, whether part of a caring ministry or not, I thought I would share some of my ideas. In previous articles I wrote about Caring Presence and Caring Words, today I write about Caring Acts.
Caring acts don’t have to be huge and profound. You don’t have to donate a kidney, or something along those lines, in order to provide a caring act for someone who is sick, suffering or sad. I think that some of the most caring acts are the simple things we do for someone, the simple acts of kindness like:
- Provide a meal for a family experiencing a death or serious illness;
- Offer a ride if you know transportation is an issue;
- A phone call to check in, and
- Show up with a plate of cookies, and offer to stay and visit if they would like
I imagine that you could offer plenty of other examples of caring acts provided to others, or that others have done on your behalf. But what makes an act a caring act? I thought of three characteristics of caring acts.
First, a caring act demonstrates your care and concern for the hurting person by putting that care and concern into action. You might say to yourself, “I haven’t seen Mary in church for a couple of weeks since she got home from the hospital, I’ll give her a call.” Your call is a caring act.
Second, a caring act is a gift, not a present. A gift is something that is given with no strings attached. A present is given with an expectation of reciprocation. I think we tend to give presents at Christmas time: I give you something, and even if there is no spoken expectation of you giving me something in exchange, the receiver of the present thinks they should give something. God demonstrates caring acts for us. God’s grace is love freely given with no strings attached. A caring act is also a gift freely given with no expectation of anything in return.
Third, a caring act does not point out to the world what a good person I am for doing it. A genuine caring act done for another does not allow for personal gain. Beware of the “caring” person who blows his or her own horn, or finds a way to benefit from it personally. The motivation for a caring act needs to be your care and concern for the hurting other, nothing else.
I think there are times when we mean well but miss the mark when it comes to caring acts. How often have we said to a bereaved person at the funeral, “Let me know if you need anything?” We genuinely mean to be there for the person if they’ll let us know what they need. But have they ever called you and let you know of a need? I’ll bet that most of us have not gotten that call.
The challenge of being a person who provides caring acts is to try to anticipate what the person may need, and do something to address that need. For example, you might pick up the phone and call the person and say, “You know I was just thinking about you, wondering what I could do to help, and thought, I wonder if she would appreciate having me run the vacuum around and do the dishes?”
Here again, it is little acts of kindness that make a caring act. It’s things like:
- Offering to watch the older children for a couple hours in the afternoon so the mom and new baby can nap;
- Offering to rake leaves or shovel snow at the home of an older person, or
- Offering to tend to the kitchen when a family is receiving guests following a funeral
These are not huge or heroic acts, but they are caring acts that can make a huge difference in the person’s life. But remember, the person might say “no,” so honor that no. Or they may say, “If you really want to help you could . . . .”
Caring presence, caring words, and caring acts are all about love. They are one of the ways that we live out what it means to be made in the image of our God of love. Thank you for caring.
Bob Furniss is chaplain at Lakeview Hospital and Hospice.