We use this word, care, easily and often throughout the day.
- “Do you care if I have a cookie?”
- “I don’t give a care.”
- “I care, just not enough to do anything about it.”
- “I care for you.”
- “Be careful!”
- “He should be under a doctor’s care.”
- "I don't care."
Care is defined as a noun: the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something; serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly or to avoid damage or risk. It’s also a verb: feel concern or interest; attach importance to something; look after and provide for the needs of.
Maybe it’s just as easy to miss actually caring for someone as it is to say, “I don’t care for any more coffee” to our server in a restaurant. There seems to be an assumption that if you’re a decent human being, you care about people. And it’s true. Kinda.
That “kinda true” for me means that I can claim to care for people…but, they may not know it. And if they don’t know I care, they conclude I don’t. Which begs the question, “Do I?”
As I was growing up as a child, I was reminded often that we love everyone because we’re supposed to. The leaders in churches I was part of often said, “You need to love them enough to get to heaven.” There’s too much confusion and bad theology in that last sentence to unpack here. But I digress.
I was taught that I should love other people. So, I grew up believing I love everyone, and therefore care for everyone, because I’m supposed to. I want my innate response to people to be genuine care. I want love for people to flow from my core, naturally.
But it doesn’t always. Remember, if someone doesn’t know I care, they assume I don’t. And if I’m not intentional about caring, then do I care?
Caring requires intentionality, because love is always a choice. In every circumstance and interaction we get to choose to love. And if we choose to love, we’ll act. And when we act in love, people will know we care.
So, if you’re like me, you may need to be intentional about getting the care inside your heart into the heart of another human being. Here are some quick ideas:
1. When you hear someone express the challenge of a physical condition, a tough relationship or a broken heart, stop and listen. Listen well enough to make a decision then about what you’ll do to follow-up on your care later. Send a card. Leave a voicemail. Make a sticky note to remind you to pray. Ask them about their concern when you see them again.
Our neighbor spends most every hour of her day caring for her husband of five decades who has had multiple strokes and now never leaves his bed and sometimes remembers who she is. She seldom gets out. So, when we made a Dairy Queen run this weekend, my wife, Laura, took our neighbor an Oreo blizzard because Laura heard her say one day it was her favorite. Our neighbor teared up over a paper cup of ice cream and cookies - because she knew Laura cared.
2. Begin your day asking yourself to whom and how you’ll express care today. Keep a stack of cards on your desk or kitchen table so you can remind yourself and easily send a note. Hop on Facebook with the intention of sending an encouraging message to a “friend,” rather then see how many people “liked” your last post. Look at your sticky note reminders, pray, then let the person know you just thought of them and lifted them to Abba.
I can go all week not really thinking about how much a friend cares for a particular life season I’m in. But a simple text from him reminds me just how much he cares about me.
3. Choose to not use human interactions today as transactions. That is, don't merely get what you need, give what they’re after, and move on. Rather, decide to pause and interact - be curious, ask a question, show interest in them.
When I pay for gas, buy groceries or give my credit card to a server, it only takes a moment or two to be intentional with my eye contact, offer genuine thanks for their time and service and wish him or her a great day. I’ve seen people warmly light up when I’ve said, “Thanks for being here today. I appreciate your help.”
I’d love to hear from you. How do you choose to care? How do you remind yourself to express it? What’s an example of how someone communicated care to you?
Leave a comment below and we’ll all coach each other to “give a care.”