Taking care of someone involves a serious amount of stress and strain, both physical, emotional and spiritual. Many of you reading this know this first hand. In some of the work I have been doing in the area of baby boomer spirituality, it has become obvious that, in the United States, we have created a new life stage called “care-giver”. Yes, we have always had care-givers. However, what really has set this apart in our times is the fact that, due to the blessings of medical technology, this life stage can now last months, even years. I am fond of reminding audiences that I prefer not to use the term “sandwich” generation, rather prefer the term “club sandwich” generation, as multi generation care-giving is no longer a rarity.
The length of this new life stage presents us and our society, with challenges unforeseen a generation ago. And, as we sit with our parents, many of us wonder quietly, if this is our future as well.
I would like to suggest that this new year of 2012 provide us with an opportunity to look at how those of us who walk this walk, can be strengthened in this journey. Often, despite the best of intentions, care-givers do their job in isolation. As many of you know, that care-giver is often a woman who must juggle a job, and/or family along with a loved one. Often, in the midst of this juggling of schedules and logistics, there is a sense of being or feeling spiritually depleted. There is a real need for religious institutions to recognize this growing trend of care-giving and to provide avenues for supporting the care-giver. Some congregations have very active support networks for individuals and families involved in care-giving. Some congregations I know of, have actually scheduled special services that honor the care-giver, or created moments when they are recognized and blessed. After all, the Commandment to “honor and respect” our parents appears three times in the Bible and carries with it, regardless of your affiliation, the understanding that this act is sacred.
Why not, in this new year, seek out ways in which your religious congregation can honor, support and celebrate those who take care of loved ones. It will be an opportunity to bring the sacred into the moment and bless the presence of those who do this powerful work.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min