Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Midweek Meditation: "What Does it Mean to Care?" (Henri Nouwen)

"What does it mean to care? Let me start by saying that the word care has become a very ambivalent word. When someone says: “I will take care of him!” it is more likely an announcement of an impending attack than of a tender compassion. And besides this ambivalence, the word care is most often used in a negative way. “Do you want coffee or tea?” “I don’t care.” “Do you want to stay home or go to a movie?” “I don’t care.” “Do you want to walk or go by car?” “I don’t care.” This indifference toward choices in life has become commonplace. And often it seems that not to care has become more acceptable than to care, and a carefree life-style more attractive than a careful one.

Real care is not ambiguous. Real care excludes indifference and is the opposite of apathy. The word “care” finds its roots in the Gothic “Kara” which means lament. The basic meaning of care is: to grieve, to experience sorrow, to cry out with. I am very much struck by this background of the word care because we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, of the powerful toward the powerless, of the have’s toward the have-not’s. And, in fact, we feel quite uncomfortable with an invitation to enter into someone’s pain before doing something about it.

Still, when we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares." (Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2004, p25-6)

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