For years, I felt called to caregiving. And for years, I didn’t know what that meant. I knew that I wanted to be a caregiver, though. And I knew I wanted spirituality to be a part of my approach. But I did not have any background or training, nor did I have a very good handle on what “sustainable caregiving” was.
Before CST, I didn’t know how to be a good caregiver.
I had a tendency to ignore my own needs, or to project my sense of worth on the “success” of my caregiving. Not a sustainable way to be present.
I didn’t understand the mutually transformative power of “showing up and shutting up.”
I didn’t understand the political power of caregiving, both community-care and self-care.
I didn’t really know what it meant to keep one ear on my own heart while keeping the second open to others.
I didn’t understand what sustainable, healthy caregiving looked like. But nevertheless, I felt called.
And that’s why CST was so important for me.
CST taught me the value of self-care and that it is not separate from other-care.
CST taught me that the only way I can be deeply attentive to others is by also being deeply attentive to myself. A revolutionary learning for a Midwestern “Enneagram 2” – to begin to say “yes” and “no” and to really mean it, to be able to reflect on “why,” and to be able to be critically self-reflexive and explore what’s going on underneath the “why.”
Today, more than ever, the world needs caregivers. The world needs people motivated by love, mercy, justice, kindness. The world needs caregivers who recognize that sin is both personal and structural, and that paying attention to the former without addressing the latter is like putting a Band-Aid ™ over a gunshot wound. The world needs a place like CST.
Now, on the other side of my degree, I can’t imagine a better education in spiritual caregiving than the one I received at CST. It taught me to begin exploring myself and my approach to caregiving in responsible, informed, and intentional ways. It taught me that self-care and other-care are not mutually exclusive practices, but are interdependent aspects of sustainable caregiving. It gave me the tools to mine my own depths, to discover my “blind spots,” and to recognize that my own life is a document I must never stop learning to read.
CST’s interreligious focus immersed me in communities that pushed me to examine the privileges of my social location and religious position, a central practice for just caregiving. It connected me to a wider world of interreligious community that celebrates similarity while respectfully engaging difference. CST also taught me the importance of intrareligious engagement, and the importance of examining my own tradition in critical and self-reflective ways. I can’t locate a specific moment, but I can trace a trajectory from before seminary to after that includes BOTH a deepening of my roots and an outstretching of my branches.
When you give to CST, you give to an institution that offers truly life-changing learning, and for that, I’m grateful.
Photo Credit: Hannah Lauber