If ‘caring’ were one of the options on the National Careers Week site, would anyone choose it? I hope that you’ll think with me that it’s not a simple question. It may be that, generally speaking, if all things were equal, of course we’d like fewer working hours, more money, better food, no debt worries. Of course we’d like status, authority, priority treatment, VIP privileges. It does seem that obvious. But you above all people know that life is not that simple, that sometimes choices are made for us, and when push comes to shove we know what’s right to do.
I think of three of the caring situations I’ve encountered just recently. The spouse who instantly gave up work to care for a partner with a terminal condition. The nephew who took responsibility for a maiden aunt, retired for 39 years and in residential care for two decades. The spouse whose life has changed abruptly after their partner’s sudden illness and long term prognosis of recovery. None would have chosen this. None would have applied for the job. But all have done what they have done without a hesitation, and with a sense at least of duty, and actually of love and profound commitment.
The six thousand people who find themselves as new carers each day care because they care. It is a given, and you do it. And you know that the way you care grows with you, and changes as your situation changes. Like being a parent, you don’t start the job with every skill, every piece of expertise in place. You don’t care each day in a state of complete calm and total balance. It’s frustrating and frightening and challenging and annoying. You wouldn’t necessarily choose it. 3 in 4 carers said that they weren’t ready for all aspects of caring. 8 in 10 said the emotional impact was greater than they thought it might be. 7 in 10 had difficulty with change in relationship with the person they cared for. We’re not ready. But we do it.
Carers Week, and our year round support for carers, is all about recognising the impact of caring, and providing as much support as possible. In some cases that will also mean campaigning for better care to be provided by agencies, councils, charities and government. Too much caring is hidden. But…Carers Week is also a celebration of the immense amount of love and service and genuine goodness which carers delight in showing and do not want to stop doing. When Jesus was faced with 2 of his close friends who wanted the best and most powerful seats next to him, he recognised that this ambition was normal. And then he turned things upside down. You’ll be richest, he said, most fulfilled, and most useful when you serve, not when you’re top dog.
Carers Week is about rejoicing in care well given, well resourced, well valued. It is about challenging when wider society takes advantage of carers rather than supporting them. You as carers have something profound to teach the rest of society. Faithful, committed, loving and dutiful service of others is what builds out society. Jesus said that the greatest among you is the servant, not the Lord. Your ‘career’ teaches us much. We will not take this for granted.