I am having the most glorious conversations! They are part of my hope of seeing that caregiving is an integral part of our lives and our days. The small ways in which we show it and receive it will help prepare us for the caregiving challenges that enter on to the continuum of our lives.
Several months ago I decided to talk with strangers I meet, generally someone serving me in some way. It is someone who waits on me in a store or coffee shop, at the post office or at a security desk in an office building, as examples. What I say is: “Tell me something about you that is magnificent, something at your core that is who you are.”
This habit was started because I can no longer bear all the negative news in which we are being bathed. It is, from my perspective, pushing us together into a human ball of fear. This was a decision or mine well before recent major events in the world and had as much to do with the prominence of crime within blocks of my house as national or world news. But put it all together and it makes me want to turn the tide or at least bring into balance the truly magnificent human beings we are, and are surrounded by every single day.
The responses have almost moved me to tears and so often are coupled with something like, “Dang! No one has ever asked me that before!” That gist has been added over 90% of the time.
I learn one compelling tiny piece of each person… a piece for each of us is made up of many magnificent qualities. We just don’t take the time to ask about them, talk about them, honor them and celebrate them.
I have seen people stand up straighter when asked. I have watched a woman get totally embarrassed and say, “Oh, I don’t know…you will have to tell me.” I told her that I absolutely knew something but I wanted to hear her share what she thought. She mentioned being a really good worker. Then she looked at me and said, “Do you REALLY know something magnificent about me?” I said, “Yes, every single time you wait on me in this line you are so gracious, hospitable and cheerful and you make me feel very welcomed.”
I have heard stories of veterans who feel magnificent in their serving…. several. A young teenage boy, shy and clearly wondering about this assignment, looked me in the eye and said, “I am compassionate.” If I were in high school I would definitely want to be his friend and now when I see him in the drugstore he gives me that shy smile.
The stories go on and I am writing down most of them. I do not ask everyone and it truly has nothing to do with me. It is about WE. We all need to be having conversations like this now to shift our world, to spend even an extra minute acknowledging one another for the beauty of who we all are…every single person on this planet has something magnificent. It may be or seem hidden so deep that one would wonder, but each one of us was born with far more than one thing. For some it gets lost. For some there is never the invitation to voice it or show it. For some it is negated. For some it shines. And on and on and on.
I could write pages about this. We must shift the conversations with one another and reach out to one another and take our minds not only off all of the negative news but also realize that our faults and shortcomings and failures do not make up the whole story of who we are. We are so much more than that.
What touches me is that almost every time I have this conversation, and if there is not a pressing need for the person with whom I am speaking to get to the next one in line, he or she almost always says, “And what about you?”
These are the ways in which I want to extend care to others, to be a care giver, a giver of care, however we want to rearrange the word caregiver and make it the practice that washes away all the negativity that surrounds us.
Every single time, every single conversation of a minute or less absolutely makes my day. When I think of those stealing cars in a restaurant parking lot, or breaking into homes, or harming people in any way big or small, I wonder if anyone ever took the time to discover their magnificence. Perhaps it would have created a different direction. There but for the grace of God go I.
Ask the child. Ask the vulnerable teenager. Ask the person who has lost a job. Ask anyone and everyone.
I encourage you to try it and to make up a question that works for you. It may be that you will come to love the habit and help spread moments of dwelling in the positive. I believe we can begin to change the conversations from ones of lack to ones that form a strong web of overflowing goodness and strengths.
I also wonder what stories we might hear if we ask the question of someone who is battling an illness, is feeling like a burden in the need for constant care, and perhaps that there is no more reason to live.
“Tell me something about you that is magnificent, for there certainly is.” Hold people in their magnificence until the very last breath. After they have their turn to share, share what we see in them that might be just the thing that carries them through that time and affirms who they are and that they will always be of inestimable worth.
And…I invite you to tell me one magnificent thing about you.