Have you ever stood at one of those windows where you can’t see in, but you know there’s someone looking out at you? You see only your reflection and have no idea who’s looking directly at you from the other side? This is an experience I had with that kind of glass…
Being a caregiver is only one of the many “jack of all trade” jobs that I’ve had in my life, trying to provide for my family. I wasn’t sure if I would be good at it and, certainly, this is not a job most people want. I only knew it involved helping those with difficulties like eating, bathing, dressing and hygiene. But when I became a caregiver, I began to learn about the stories behind those I was caring for. You see, not all of them were born with the challenges they faced. Some had gone through tragic circumstances and were left to live their lives this way, now and for the rest of their eternity.
One woman I met, while a beautiful teenager, found she’d become pregnant. As a young teen, she was full of excitement, loved everything related to fashion and was always on top of the latest “trends” going on. She was older now, as she appeared in front of me, and I enjoyed her company. Getting to know her, I learned that when she had gone into labor, things became difficult. Complications arose and errors were made. She could, no longer, do her hair, her make-up and couldn’t dress herself. She couldn’t turn the pages of a fashion magazine for herself anymore. Now, her body wouldn’t allow her to feed herself or even swallow without instruction. She had a wonderful nurse helping her daily. In time, she shared with me that she had still never, yet, communicated with the child she had borne that day.
When you work daily with those facing challenges or behaviors, they become your work “family” as in any other workplace. The difference, here, is that no matter what they do to you, there’s absolutely nothing involved other than their reality, exposed. They trust and count on you to understand, even though they can’t always tell you. When this happens, you are rewarded with the greatest “promotion” imaginable. You’ve become an important part of their world, no bells and whistles, no parties or bonus checks, just pure and simple trust.
Imagine yourself living in a glass bubble. There is a film on the outside. You’re pounding on the glass, screaming, with everything you’ve got, but no one can hear you. You’re looking directly at them, but no one can see you. You’re stuck in this body that no longer works the way theirs does, they can’t see that you’re perfectly “normal” inside the bubble. Everything you do is fine inside, you’re speaking and thinking just like them, but no one sees anything other than what’s on the outside. Maybe you drool, maybe something worse. All they see is this person they want to walk around, avoid contact with and pull their children away from. No one takes a moment to smile and wish you a beautiful day. They just stroll through their days, giving no concern, unaware at just how damn fortunate you know they truly are, from inside this bubble you’re stuck in.
I soon discovered I was quite good at caregiving. I quickly became the assistant to the director running the facility. I was creating plans with goals, developing life improvements. I learned the details behind their stories and discovered their dreams. Some just wanted to learn to write their name, others wanted to communicate better. For many, they just wanted to do more for themselves and not be such a burden to the families they so desperately wanted acceptance, understanding and love from, unconditionally.
It goes far deeper than how many fingers and toes a child has at birth. Things sometimes do happen. One person’s body could be another’s bubble, but bubbles are like snowflakes, each is unique. Every one of us was created for a reason but, for some, those reasons just aren’t as obvious or easily understood. Embrace what truly is important, be grateful for the “temple” you were given, regardless what it looks like. Stop trying so damn hard to get “things” in your life that are nothing other than material objects. You can’t take any of them with you anyway. Today, maybe you’ll stop and truly realize just how fortunate you already are, without more “stuff”.
All of you reading this, and those I hope you share it with, please remember the next time you see a human being in a wheelchair, or one living with any type of challenge, think for just a moment. On that day, maybe you’ll reach out and make a difference in someone else’s life. This is the “stuff” that makes our world so wonderful. Honestly, it only requires a simple smile or a warm greeting to touch another’s heart and make them feel “seen” or significant. Yes, it really is that easy.
My deep appreciation goes out to every caregiver I know, and all those countless others I have not met. You truly are “super heroes” in our world and are not recognized enough for that which you do for all of our loved ones, friends and so many others that count on you each and every day. I bow to you and I thank you for all that you do. It takes a special kind of person to assist and help others for a living. Everyone needs to remember that. We all know that some of the most important “jobs” in this world are unappreciated, are grossly underpaid and absolutely necessary.
One day, I entered work with a stack of fashion magazines in my arm. I brought that young woman into my office to have lunch together and spend a little time, privately. It was then, on that day, with the help of technology advancements, patience and understanding, she learned to email communicate with her child.