In the beginning was a caring relationship – building back better (third in a series)

With apologies to the gospel in the beginning wasn’t the word, it was a caring relationship.

In 2001 the 530,000 year old partial skeleton of a 12 year old girl was discovered in Spain. The shape of her skull indicated to scientists that she had a disability that limited her mobility. The extent of her disability doesn’t matter. What matters is that she survived because her family and her hunter-gatherer community took care. Her bones speak of love, tenderness, compassion and belonging. A story that runs counter to the assertion that we are selfish creatures and that only the fittest survive.

From the beginning people took care of each other. They supported, protected, comforted, adapted, invented, and created for each other.

The basic ingredient of society is a caring relationship. Nothing is possible without it. Everything is possible with it.

My wife Vickie Cammack describes a caring relationship as love in action. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t been birthed, nurtured, buffeted and dependent on such love. Behind every business tycoon, politican, artist, preacher, athlete, record setter, public servant, first responder, community organizer, and tech wizard is a caring relationship.

The experience of receiving and giving caring is humanity’s classroom. It has been given to us to learn what it means to be human.

A caring relationship teaches us that:

  • Vulnerability is a universal condition
  • We are interdependent not independent
  • Asking for help is a gift that shimmers in all directions
  • Everyone grows, learns and experiences joy throughout their life regardless of their condition
  • Being whole is not the same as being perfect
  • Freedom does not exist without obligation
  • Loving the world as it is, with its suffering and desecration, helps us understand where the possible remains
  • The good of others involves sacrifice, inconvenience and letting go
  • Adversity turns into creativity when we love
  • The ordinary and the sacred are two sides of the same coin.

Want to reform long term care care, end poverty, tackle climate change, stop corporate greed, produce authentic leaders, strengthen democracy, and renegotiate the social contract?

Then nurture a culture that celebrates caring relationships.

(With appreciation to Anne Basting, Bonnie Sherr Klein, Donna Thomson, Eva Kittay, Hannah ArendtParker Palmer, Vickie Cammack, and the Ashoka Roundtable on Aging led by Chris Cusano and Hae-Young Lee)


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