I once read an article written by a mom whose two boys got caught in a rip tide. When she saw her boys struggling, her gut reaction was to run in after the boys to try and save them, even though she knew that was exactly what she wasn’t supposed to do.
The mother and her boys were rescued in large part because of a couple who happened to be at the beach that day as well. When this husband and wife saw the commotion in the distance, they ran over to survey the scene and could tell that the family was drowning. But they could also see that there was no way to get to them without also putting themselves in danger.
That’s when they yelled to others on shore to make a human chain until they could reach far enough out into the water to reach the struggling swimmers. What started with six people volunteering to help quickly became ten, and then pretty soon there were fifty people who had joined the chain.
In a matter of minutes, they stretched out from shortest to tallest. The wife, who was an expert swimmer, ran to the front of the line with two bodyboards and forged her way to the two kids, who were fifteen feet away from the front of the line. Then, one by one, the chain pulled each boy and then the adults from person to person until all those who had been stuck in the rip tide were safely back on shore.
When I read this article, as a mom, I could understand how the mother of the two boys must have felt when she saw them struggling in the water. Like her, I would have done anything to try to save my own kids. I reflected on how emotionally and physically taxing an experience like this would be for all those involved.
This story got me thinking about caregiving. Although it can certainly be rewarding when you know you are making a difference in someone else’s life, and although many of the situations that we face as parents and caregivers are thankfully not quite as intense, caring for others can be exhausting. And these days, extra stressors and limitations can make that all the more true.
However, although caring for others does involve the risk of getting hurt, experiencing heartache, and feeling worn out, the alternative would mean turning our back on Christ’s call to love, and missing out on experiencing the love and support of people we’ve grown close to over the years.
When we give ourselves permission to take the time we need for self-care––and then guard that time to the best of our ability––it can make all the difference in being able to do the work God has called us to do. Whether it be exercise, some quiet time, journaling, or getting a massage, our love for others is almost always healthier when we are able to practice love toward ourselves.
And when that is the case, we are more likely to be reminded that just as we wouldn’t hesitate to join in a human chain to save someone else from drowning, numerous people are more than willing to do the same for us. Trusting that human chain makes it possible for us to look with compassion on those we are called to care for, near and far, clasp hands, and do whatever we can to help.