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During the month of November, a group of us met to discuss Courage for Caregivers: Sustenance for the Journey. Here are some of our thoughts and takeaways! 

Our journey through life, regardless of age, involves both giving and receiving care. There’s care for sickness and injury, aging or mental health. The importance of care has been highlighted this past year, as all of us respond to the challenges of Covid-19. 

In November, six participants met on zoom to explore the concepts of care and caregiving presented in this book. Ably moderated by Becky Jones and Carolyn Groot-Nibbelink, we shared personal stories of giving and receiving care. We bonded quickly and discussed how our past and present experiences define our thoughts about care. 

What is care? Henri Nouwen describes it this way. “Care finds its origin in the word kara, which means to lament, to mourn, to participate in suffering, to share in pain. To care is to be present to those who suffer, and to stay present, even when nothing can be done to change their situation.” 

The book’s four chapters shaped our weekly discussions. We discussed caregiving as a mutual activity, impacting both the person giving and receiving care. Henri reminds us that “care is not cure” and that our compassion grows as we lament and share in the suffering of others. While caregivers experience a range of emotions, emotions are also stirred up in the person receiving care, as he or she deals with pain, increased vulnerability or diminishing personal care abilities. 

Central to Henri Nouwen’s writing is his overarching theme of God’s love for every person; we are “the beloved.” Caregiving is difficult, but when we see the person being cared for as one of God’s beloved, caregiving can be seen as a “gift.” God helps the caregiver meet the challenges of caregiving and both the caregiver and the person being cared for learn more about God’s divine love and grace in their lives. 

The book’s final chapter dealt with the importance of self-care for caregivers. Caregiving challenges may include illness, disability, anxiety, fatigue and grief. If caregivers are to gain “sustenance for the journey”, they can lean on God’s love and grace through prayer and Bible reading. We concluded our discussion by sharing how God provides us with daily hope and strength. 

Our online book club was helpful and encouraging. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all caregivers who display courage on a daily basis. Many thanks to Disability Concerns for hosting this discussion and I look forward to their next book club event in February 2021. 

To learn about our upcoming book club: Disability Concerns Winter Book Club

To join our next book club where we will be discussing John Swinton's new book, Finding Jesus in the Storm:The Spiritual Lives of Christians with Mental Health Challenges, complete the winter book club form

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