Wednesday, September 5, 2012

More Blessed to Give...and Easier, Too!

              Every month I skim the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Caregiving Newsletter along with several other informative publications about dementia. A term I’m seeing with increasing frequency is “care recipient.”  Care recipients are the ones who are on the receiving end of services rendered by caregivers.

This week an incident occurred that made me realize that while it may be more blessed to give care than to receive it, giving has the advantage of being an easier assignment. Here’s how I learned this truth:
I, like my mother before me, have long been an easy mark for letters from charitable organizations requesting money. Mom used to always send at least $3 to every worthy cause; I’ve upped the ante and send $5. One day my husband came in from the mailbox bearing a sheaf of envelopes so thick that the postman had rubber banded them together.
My spouse said, “Hon, you’ve got to quit sending donations to every single place that asks. It just puts you on their mailing lists forever. And they communicate with each other—the requests for money increase exponentially.”  
“Exponential” is a math term, so my brain automatically shut down. In response to my blank look he explained, “The first organization sells your address to another, and they sell your address to another, and so on. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16…”
I did understand that our mailbox was being stuffed with increasing numbers of requests for money, and so I humbly agreed to stop sending my tiny donations to every single organization that asked for contributions.
The next morning I crunched through the dull brown grass in our front yard and reached the mailbox just as several dried cornhusks settled on the ground in front of me. The drought fueled wind has been lifting the nearly weightless remains of our hopes for a corn crop high into the air, and then hours later they float down to earth like debris after a tornado. I sighed, opened the mailbox, and pulled out an envelope that had the words ‘Desperate Need” printed in large red letters across the front.
“Just one more little contribution,” I thought. “I can’t turn down anyone in desperate need.”
Right there at the mailbox I ripped open the envelope and pulled out the letter inside. Squinting my eyes against the scorching sun’s reflection on the white page, I read, “Drought in Midwest! Farmers are in desperate need! Send your contribution now!”
I stared at the letter for a few moments while the realization dawned that as farmers in the Midwest, my husband and I fit nicely into the category of “care recipients” according to the terms outlined in this particular request for cash. 
Now, I don’t feel desperately needy, but there it was in black and white; other people are feeling sorry for us. In the eyes of this charitable organization—or so they say—we are the ones in need of care. I do not like that thought one bit!
I think of my mother, who patiently accepts my ministrations with gratitude and humility, and realize that being the weaker partner in the caregiver/care-recipient relationship requires special grace.
Now I’m just wondering when will we poor, drought -stricken farmers receive our checks from that organization??

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