Spiritual Lessons my Caregivers Taught Me
The song, Glycerine by Bush was one of my favorite songs growing up. The lyric, “I’m never alone, I’m alone all the time,” described my life at times. As a disabled person, I grew up with a large variety of people coming in and out of my life. These people would help with daily living skills. They would be known as my caregivers. I am grateful for everyone, who has ever worked for me. They taught me spiritual lessons: how to trust, how to listen, and how to evangelize. They helped me become a more merciful Christian.
About My Care
I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I suffered from a brain injury. This injury affects the way my muscles in my body move. I do not walk and use a motorized wheelchair to get around. When I was twelve, my parents applied for help with the Department of Medical Assistant Services (DMAS). This allowed us to hire caregivers.
In the DMAS system, there are to different types of care. Agency directed care describes a situation in which a company provides caregivers. Consumer-directed describes when the patient employs caregivers. I experienced both in college. I am more fond of consumer-directed care. Yet agency-directed care allowed me to meet people from all walks of life.
When relying on others for help, you learn a lot about trust. I cannot get into bed or go to the bathroom by myself. Thus when people do not show it is an exercise in trust. God has been faithful and always made a way for me. One example happened when I was studying at the University of Virginia. I had gone out with some friends to see a play. I had told the agency caregiver that I had expected to be back around 9 pm. My phone was on silent out of respect for the performance. Turns out that it was closer to 10 pm. I didn’t think much about it because her shift didn’t end until 1am. When I returned to my place and knocked on the door, nobody answered. After much struggle, I was able to get the door open myself. I walked in to find nobody there. Luckily for me, a local student, who happened to be one of my caregivers, was available at 11 pm to put me to bed.
Until coming to know the Lord, I struggled with this quite a bit. I had zero patience for small talk and typically only cared about my needs. I thought that my caregivers were there to cater to me. After having an encounter with Christ, I started valuing people. Even my mom noticed. When I struck up a conversation with a hospital nurse, my mom remarked, “you’re a lot nicer now.” I try to make time to talk with my caregivers and ask how they’re doing. I still am not perfect. I have a hard time forgiving mistakes especially when they affect me. I get easily frustrated when a caregiver burns dinner or is late. I am striving in those moments to call upon the Holy Spirit and show mercy.
I, unfortunately, have been wronged by caregivers in the past. I have been emotionally manipulated and stolen from. The wrongful actions down by people I trusted made me angry. It makes it harder for me to have compassion. It also teaches me the importance of forgiveness. As a Christian, I’m called to forgive. I am not called to forget. I forgive them so that my anger does not make me cynical and bitter. Forgiveness enables me to let go and focus on the good people I have in my life.
One of the greatest ministries I have involves interacting with my caregivers. Some of my caregivers come from broken homes. Some are not religious. A lot of my caregivers are evangelical. Thus they have misconceptions about the Catholic Church. When they interact with me, I try to show them what a faithful Catholic looks like. I am able to dialogue with them about God, Jesus, and religion. One of the best interactions was with a lesbian caregiver. I didn’t preach to her or tell her she was wrong but tried to love her (even though I was clear that I stood with the church). When her brother got into a car crash, I gave her gas cards so that she could see him in the hospital. By my witness, she was considering church again. People need love and I have the unique position to show that to them.
My disability provides ways to grow in holiness. In the grand scheme of things, growing in holiness is more important than getting out of bed by myself. I do believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, whoever loses his life will save it.
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My name is Sarah Bailey. I converted to Catholicism four years ago. My favorite Catholic devotion is Eucharistic adoration. In my free time, I enjoy reading, playing board games and going to concerts. I write weekly at http://confessionsofacatholicconvert.com/