Service to others can bring us closer to God

By  Lisa Petsche
  • February 23, 2007
This is my brand new day starting now
Letting go of the ways that I fall down
The old can be made new, the lost can be found.

Superchick, Christian band
There’s a wealth of contemporary Christian music being produced these days, and I tune in to it whenever I can. Often, too, I hear it wafting (or blasting) out of my daughter’s bedroom stereo. Lately these lyrics by one of her favourite bands, Skillet, have been stuck in my head: “Rebirthing now/I wanna live my life, wanna give you everything/Breathe for the first time now/I come alive somehow.” The song, “Rebirthing,” is about finding meaning and purpose in Christ and feeling fully alive as a result.
For Catholics, Lent presents a special opportunity for rebirthing or spiritual renewal. It's a time to   look deep inside ourselves to the imperfections that keep us separated from  God and one another.  "Maybe we're bent and broken" or  "maybe we've been living with our eyes half open" as another of my daughter's favourite bands, Switchfoot, speculates in its song,  "Meant to Live."

Numerous spiritual practices can help us counteract self-centredness  – the root of all sin  – and achieve greater unity with our Creator. One of them is service to others in a spirit of love. As the Bible says,  "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).

There are, of course, many individuals and causes that can benefit from our assistance. I'd like to focus here on one group of people: those caring for a disabled or ill relative.

They may be family members, friends, neighbours, co-workers or fellow parishioners.

Their role involves physical, psychological, emotional and financial demands, yet their contribution often goes unrecognized in our society and formal supports don't adequately meet their needs.

Allow me to suggest some things that you, as a relative or friend, might do to help prevent a caregiver, you know from wearing down and losing hope.

  • Keep in touch, recognizing that you may have to make most of the effort in maintaining the relationship. If you live at a distance or otherwise can't visit often, regularly call to see how she's doing or send cards or letters to let her know you're thinking of her.
  • Listen non-judgmentally, demonstrate compassion and don't give unsolicited advice. Provide words of support and encouragement.
  • Encourage the caregiver to practise self-care by eating nutritiously, exercising and getting sufficient rest in order to maintain good health. Do whatever you can to help make it possible. For example, bring over a meal or offer to sit with  the care receiver  while the caregiver goes for a walk or takes a nap.
  • Ask, rather than guess, what kind of practical help would be most valuable. Perhaps it's vacuuming, doing laundry, walking the dog or running errands. If your assistance is declined, continue to express your desire to help. Meanwhile, take it upon yourself to deliver a casserole or muffins or, if you're a neighbour, sweep both walks or bring in both sets of garbage cans. Encourage  the caregiver  to ask for and accept help rather than go it alone.
  • Surprise her with a treat, such as a rented movie, fresh flowers or a plant, gourmet coffee or tea, or a gift certificate to a favourite restaurant that has takeout and delivery service.
  • Give the gift of time. Offer to sit with the care receiver for an hour while the caregiver goes to an appointment or to Mass, or for a longer stretch so he can attend a social event.
  • Offer to get information about community resources that may be of assistance.

Many of these suggestions also apply to others who may be feeling overwhelmed by life's changes and challenges, such as new parents, single parents, people who are physically or mentally ill and those who are grieving a loss.

Whatever forms of penance we choose to concentrate on this Lenten season, when we  "feel the peace returning" and once more  "feel a fire burning" (Jill Parr, Reach), we will know our spiritual lives are back on track. Then we can fully experience the joy of the Resurrection.

(Petsche is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register.)

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