Diane, a sales manager for a major food company, was walking down the hallway of her office building when she noticed a sales associate sobbing alone in a corner. Diane didn’t know the girl very well and hesitated momentarily. But she decided to do something rather than pass by, even though she felt uncomfortable as to what to do and how to do it. Intuitively she walked over and put her arm on the girl’s shoulder. While the girl sobbed quietly, Diane stood there and said nothing. She stayed alongside for fifteen minutes or so, still saying nothing. After the sobbing subsided, Diane continued to offer herself as a potential listener in case her colleague wanted to talk. Her reaching out in silent friendship prompted the sales associate to say, “Thanks for being with me. Thanks for helping me.”
Diane took the risk of coming to someone’s aid, even though she wasn’t sure if her reaching out would be effective. It was.
Hurting people are everywhere. People with depression, children on drugs, husbands cheating on their wives, marriages in financial crisis. What hurting people need is someone like Diane who will come alongside of them and show them that they care. That someone maybe me, or you.
Caring is more than sentiment. Care is an attitude of concern and compassion that motivates one to reach out to a hurting person. Caregiving is both a gift and a skill. While one can read about it and study it, the best way to do it. Here are four ways to demonstrate care.
- Identify with the hurting.
Caring for hurting people does not mean I am better than they are. It means that I can easily identify with their needs for comfort and help because I’ve experienced similar pain and hurt.
Thomas Dubay insists that real caring cannot take place until we’ve gotten close enough to see and understand the other’s needs: “To care is to jump into the other’s skin. It is to become the other in mind and heart, to live the other’s interests. To care is to become one’s brother, one’s sister.”
2. Become involved with the hurting.
The caring person comes up close and gets involved with the hurting person. Only until we get close, really close, to feel the pain do we bring care to the hurting soul.
At the heart of care is compassion. And one cannot love at a distance. One must get involved in people’s lives. Unless we deliberately get close enough to make a real offer of help, with concern and compassion, we are just mouthing words. Hurting people are quick to sense when our heart is not in it.
3. Touch the hurting person.
Hurting people especially need appropriate human touch. They need to be embraced at their point of need.
We long for human touch. In a recent study at UCLA, it was found that just to maintain emotional and physical health, men and women need eight to ten meaningful touches each day!
Over one-third of our five million touch receptors are centered in our hands! Dr. Dolores Krieger, professor of nursing at New York University, has found that both the toucher and the one being touched receive a psychological benefit.
A touch is extremely comforting. A mother can calm a crying baby merely by stroking its stomach. A father can communicate acceptance by an arm around a son. A coach can say well done by a pat on the back. A spouse can proclaim endearment by a warm embrace.
4. Find practical ways to help the hurting.
Once we have identified, gotten close enough to be involved, and expressed concern through meaningful touch, now we are in a position to help—the voluntary giving of oneself. But this help is costly. It involves, for example, giving time—and this can be the costliest gift of all. Many times we’d much rather speak a word of greeting, send a card, or give some money. But time is a precious commodity in our busy culture, and we are often reluctant to give it up—even though it is often the very gift that best says, “I care.”
Practical help is fleshed out in the preparing meals for a family that has experienced death. Mowing the yard of someone who is sick. Doing the housework for someone who is physically limited. Listening to a friend who is down. Inviting new employees out to lunch. Maintaining the car of a single mother. The significance of these random acts of kindness often lies not just in the gift itself, but also in the message it conveys.
To the person on the receiving end, a caring deed is the mark of greatness.
The warmth of care is poignantly expressed in the movie The Elephant Man. The grotesquely disfigured elephant man asks hopefully of the medical doctor, “Can you cure me?” With deep concern the doctor answers, “No, but we can care for you.” When we take the time to look around we will see a lot of people in need of help. We may not be able to cure them, but we can care for them.