If I had known what trouble you were bearing;
What griefs were in the silence of your face;
I would have been more gentle and more caring,
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
(Mary Carolyn Davies)
FEW OF US CAN SAY WE’VE NEVER BEEN ASHAMED WHEN IT CAME TO OUR ATTENTION THAT WE FAILED TO CARE FOR SOMEONE WHOM WE SHOULD HAVE CARED FOR. Whether our unawareness was innocent and inadvertent or the result of negligence, it’s painful to find out that we’ve failed to care. So we’d do well to be more inquisitive when it comes to others’ need for our caring.
Caring is a privilege. Caring for others would not be possible if we had not been endowed with some very special gifts. While certain animals “care” for their young in one sense, the kind of caring that human beings are capable of requires a set of remarkable powers. It’s a privilege to have been endowed with these powers, and if we ever catch ourselves complaining about having to use them, then we need to adjust our attitudes. Duty is simply the other side of privilege.
Caring is a pleasure. Out of all the happinesses — or perhaps we should say joys — that human beings can experience, none is more exquisite than that of caring. And I don’t mean simply the sentiment of caring; I mean the act of caring. The words “It is more blessed to give than to receive” encapsulate one of the most important truths that our minds can grasp. It would behoove us to quit paying lip service to that maxim and start learning that life really does work that way.
Indifference, which is a failure to care, is a horrible sin. I don’t believe George Bernard Shaw was overstating the case when he said, “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.”
Not caring for those around us (especially those to whom we have some special responsibility, such as our families) is a fate worse than death. Yes, it costs us to care. Yes, sacrifices may be required. And yes, it may come to the point where caring for someone even demands that we lay down our lives for them. But listen to me: whatever the price of caring may be, it is nowhere near the cost of not caring.
“To try may be to die, but not to care is never to be born” (William Redfield).