I recently caught myself bidding farewell to a friend saying ”take care.” I’ve said this a thousand times, but for some reason this time I paused to think about it.
I wondered why we had ended this way. Why do we bid “take care” only as we depart each other’s company? Why didn’t we greet each other that way? Why didn’t we start with “take care?”
What would it mean to start rather than end our interactions that way?
By starting with “take care,” I could present both a commitment and a request. I would commit to approaching you with empathy and openness, not knowing the burdens you may be carrying. I would ask you to commit the same to me. Together, in taking care, we would commit to being present and open to the conversation that may need to happen even if it is not the one we intended to have.
I guess this has been on my mind because over the last few months I have had several family members in and out of the hospital. Some very serious issues, some chronic, some curious, and once for the birth of my second daughter.
And in the emotion and confusion of it all, often the best anyone could do for my family or for me was just to “take care.”
Those incredible nurses and doctors who understood the difference between dispensing pain medication and alleviating pain understood this. The warm hand on the shoulder. The cold pack on the forehead. The empathetic silence while we processed the situation.
Those friends who called to check, but didn’t expect a call back. Those who brought food or wrote a thoughtful note. Those who offered even the slightest act of taking care.
These actions make all the difference, especially when critical answers are few and far between.
Taking care may have also been on my mind because of a recent article recognizing my Mom for her 38 years worth of dedication and work in East Nashville; recognizing her for taking care of her community.
Or perhaps it is because of the birth of my second daughter and my continuing, but evolving, care for the first. My primary responsibility is simply to take care.
Regardless, these recent experiences have helped illuminate the difference between caring and taking care. The former I can do at a distance. I can care in my heart and certainly in my mind. But, the latter comes from my soul and manifests in my body and in my actions. Taking care requires the investment of my self in the other.
So, as we approach each other and the world around us, let’s put the onus of taking care on ourselves, and put it first. Rather than bidding “take care” as something to move forth in farewell, let’s start with it and commit to it here and now.
Let’s start by taking care of each other.