Archive for December, 2012


As I sit here this last morning of this year, I pause to reflect.  As I look back on this past year I have experienced more ways closing than opening.  As I look ahead to the new year that will present itself to me in a few hours I am searching for. . .for what?  For ways that might present themselves or perhaps for doors that I might open that will reveal a way for me.  What will guide my search – or is it ‘who will guide my search?’   I love questions so perhaps there are a few questions that might help guide me today.  Let me think. . . Here are four.  These have no final answer; they are companions that travel with me on my life’s journey.  As I hold them I am thinking of Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice to the young poet: ‘Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’  Some ‘perhaps.’  Here are my four questions:

Who am I?  What is my ‘essential’ nature – my ‘true’ nature and how do I find it?  I have choice so: Who am I choosing to become?  Why am I choosing this becoming?

 What do I love?  What I choose to love will shape who I am and provide the threads that weave my inner and outer life together into a seamless fabric.

 How shall I live, knowing I will die?  From my first breath I have been traveling a life journey that will end, now sooner rather than later.  Someone once determined that a long life is about 650,000 hours thus far I have lived 595,680 thousand hours.  Have I lived less by ‘accident’ and more by ‘purpose’?  A disturbing question for me to hold.

 What is my gift to my world? I am unique. My contribution, my gift, to my world therefore is also unique.  What is it?  What is the gift or legacy that I am called to give to my world?  What have I received from my world?  How do I balance the two – giving and receiving?

Gentle reader, as you live into this last day of this year, what questions emerge for you?  What are the questions that you are holding that will be your companion as you open the door and prepare yourself to step across the threshold in 2013?











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[Gentle reader: please see my postings for 22 & 23 December, 2012 for the context for today’s entry]


Hope = events will turn out for the best.  In caring (serving) I have hope that the other will grow through my caring.  The other will become healthier (P.I.E.S. again).  Hope of this type is not ‘wishful thinking.’  Hope of this type is an expression of the abundance of the present; the present is alive with possibilities and the other is full of potential.  When my daughter and son were young I was often stirred by the potential I believed existed within each of them.  My goal when I cared for them was that they tap into their potential and that their potential be nurtured into fruition.  I believed that each was unique in his or her own right.

In caring (serving) hope is not passively waiting; it is not simply ‘hope for the other.’  It is hope for the realization of the other through my caring plus their response to my caring.  Hope requires courage.  Such courage is found in standing by the other during trying circumstances.  I realized that if I did not stand by my son and daughter during difficult times my hope for their growth would be undermined.  Hope implies that the other is worthy of my commitment to serving their highest priority needs.  Lack of hope implies that the other is not worthy to be cared for.


Courage = the quality of mind and spirit that enables a person to face difficulty.  In caring (serving) courage is also required in order to step into the unknown.  By following the lead of the other I have no guarantee where we will end up nor will I know in advance all the situations that will unfold.  I cannot be sure of who the one cared for will become, nor can I be sure of who I will become as a result of my caring for the other.  I have seen this type of courage demonstrated by my son this past semester as he, the artist, sought to ‘find his own way’ and then to find the inner courage he needed in order to ‘defend’ his way with his professors and with his fellow students.  His professors encouraged him and supported him to ‘find his own way’ and they also challenged him so that he could affirm the way he was finding.  His courage was informed via his past experience and his past insights into who he was as an artist.  His courage was supported by his emerging vision of who he could become as an artist.  Trust in the other to grow and in my own ability to care gives me courage to step into the unknown; to journey together with the other in a relationship rooted in deep abiding care – care given and care received and care affirmed.


Vulnerable = to be transparent, to take risks and to carry the wound gracefully (vulnerable comes from the Latin root, vulnus, which means to carry the wound gracefully).  In caring (serving) a relationship is rooted in transparency – this is who I am and this is who you are.  We each risk because we care and are cared for.  Because the one caring and the one cared for are imperfect then wounds will be delivered and received.  Being vulnerable requires that I strive to carry the wound gracefully.  I will not seek to ‘get even’ or to ‘seek revenge’ or to ‘return wound with wound.’  Caring also requires that when wounds are delivered that forgiveness, healing and reconciliation are embraced by the one caring and by the one cared for.

These are not the only tap roots of caring, they are the nine that I have been reflecting upon these past weeks.  I do believe that they are the nine tap roots that nurture a caring (serving) relationship; the outcome of a caring (serving) relationship is the growth (P.I.E.S. once again) of both the one caring and the one cared for.

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[Gentle reader: please see my postings for 22 & 23 December, 2012 for the context for today’s entry]


Humility = to be respectful.  In caring (serving) I respect and I am committed to the growth of the other.  This requires me to be open to continuously learning about the other as a fully human being and the other’s highest priority needs.  I approach the other and our relationship with an attitude and an openness that there is always something more to learn.  I must also be open to learning more about who I am and to who I am choosing to become.  The learn about the one cared for and I learn from the one cared for – the teacher learns from the student.  I am not humiliated to learn from any number of sources; I approach all caring situations as opportunities to serve and to learn.  When I believe I have nothing more to learn I am less capable of caring.  In a sense, in caring I hold an attitude that I always have more to learn; it is almost as if with each new opportunity to be caring I begin anew.  This caring opportunity is unique, as is the next, as is the next.  Each person that I care for is also unique (as a teacher there have been times when I did not approach each student as being unique and hence we both suffered because of it).

In caring rooted in humility I must also strive to avoid competing with other care-givers.  Last year I witnessed three care-givers who actually competed with one another regarding a student; they actually ‘fought’ over who was to provide the caring.  The one to be cared for was, as a consequence, not well cared for at all.  Each of the care-givers blamed the others for the lack of caring that the student experienced.  It appeared to me that each of the care-givers had become more concerned about their own identity and their own ‘turf’ and had shifted the focus from the student to themselves.  They seemed to have shifted from addressing the highest priority needs of the student to addressing their own needs.  Their choices raised a question of ‘when is caring potentially immoral?’  It seemed to me that their arrogance exaggerated their own importance at the expense of the one to be cared for.

Humility also provides the one caring an opportunity to learn about and appreciate her own limitations; perhaps there is someone else that can provide the caring needed.  Humility also enables the one caring to give the cared for the recognition she needs in order for her to grow.  To paraphrase Lao Tzu, when the care-giver is at her best the one cared-for will say ‘I did this myself!’  Humility says that I do not have to claim the recognition/reward; what is crucial is that the other is cared for , that the other’s highest priority needs are served and that the other grows (P.I.E.S. again) as a result of being cared for.  On the other hand, the once caring can also affirm that he has cared-well and can accept, with humility, the affirmation of the one cared for.  As a result of both of these the one caring will also grow.

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[Gentle reader: please see my postings for 22 & 23 December, 2012 for the context for today’s entry]


Caring (serving) requires trust.  I trust the other will grow and develop in its own time and in its own way.  When I care I appreciate and support and nurture the independence of the other.  In caring, I trust that the other will learn from mistakes made.  I have experienced that when the other realizes that ‘he trusts me’ that the other, more often than not, seeks to justify my trust by being trustworthy.  When I trust the other I also have to ‘let go;’ I must take a risk or a leap of faith and this requires of me courage and vulnerability.

I am imperfect and so I also demonstrate a lack of trust in the other.  For me, this lack of trust is manifested when I attempt to ‘form’ the other or to ‘categorize’ him or her or by ‘caring too much’ such that the other becomes dependent upon me.  For others, a lack of trust is manifested by ‘indoctrination’ – this is the truth or the way and you must follow it.  Indoctrination prohibits questioning or doubt.  Indoctrination is not responsive to the needs of the other. Indoctrination says ‘I know what’s best for you.’  Trust says, ‘I know you can, with help, figure out what’s best for you.’  Trust says, ‘I will be with you as you strive to discern what is best for you.’

Trust in the other to grow is deeply rooted in actively promoting and safeguarding the conditions which warrant trust.  For example, the caring teacher who trusts her students to find their own way in pursuing their own projects grounds such trust by providing the students with assistance, encouragement, and exposure to stimulating experiences.

The one caring must also trust himself to grow.  If he does not trust himself to grow he will not be able to trust the other to grow.  Trust in oneself is rooted in ‘self-knowledge’ – the one caring must know his deep assumptions about people; he must know how his core values and guiding life-principles support and hinder his ability to trust himself and thus to trust the other. The one caring must also trust her own capacity to care.  She must also trust – and demonstrate – that she is able to learn from her own mistakes.  The one caring must also trust his intuition.  The one caring must also trust her ability to create an environment that is growth nurturing.  The one caring gives trust; trust does not have to be earned – this is a challenge for those who believe that trust is only given when it is earned.

Trust will be broken for imperfect human beings are involved.  Thus, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing are also crucial to caring rooted in trust.

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[Gentle reader: please see my postings for 22 & 23 December, 2012 for the context for today’s entry]


Honesty = truthfulness, sincerity.  I am thinking of honesty as something positive in a caring relationship and not as seeing it as a matter of ‘not doing something’ [as in ‘not telling a lie’].  Honesty begins, in here, as in ‘I must be honest with myself.’  This ‘being honest with myself’ entails confronting myself and to my being ‘open’ to myself as a living paradox of light and darkness.  In caring for the other I seek to be true to who I am called to be.  I also seek to see the other as he or she is and not as I would like them to be.  If I am going to care so that the other has an opportunity to grow I must also be open to the other’s changing needs (the high priority needs I referred to in an earlier posting).  It is crucial that when I encounter that which is unpleasant I am still called to care for the other – just as I am called to care for myself given the unpleasant facts that I encounter within myself.  Honesty requires that I see as clearly as possible what I am doing and whether what I am doing promotes growth or hinders the growth of the other.

I can be, indeed I have been, honest and still be mistaken.  At my best I am open to acknowledging my mistake and then I am open to correcting it (if possible) and then I am open to learning from my mistake.  When I am not at my best one or more of these three do not happen; I resist.  I strive to be honest in my caring because honesty is integral to caring.

There is another aspect of honesty that I must also be attentive to when I choose to care for another.  The best term I have been able to emerge for this is integrity.  To the best of my ability when I act with integrity there exists only small gaps between what I espouse and what I enact (because I am an imperfect being a gap will always exist).  What I do and say is complemented by my feelings, my deep beliefs, my guiding lifeprinciples, and my core values.  Because the one cared for will discern gaps that exist the greater the gaps the less the other will feel cared for (we know that these are not communicated verbally – we know they are communicated by tone of voice, by facial expressions and by other non-verbal cues).  The other knows, for example, whether I am truly present to them ‘now.’  The other knows if I am ‘somewhere else.’  In order for the other to be present to me I must first be present to the other.  I have also learned that I am not able to be fully present to the other when I become concerned about how I appear to the other rather than focus on how I can care for the other.  When I get caught up in trying to prove to the other how much I care I end up not caring for the other.

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