You would think that being called a “saint” would be a nice thing. It’s the highest compliment I can think of for Christlike folks, especially if they are some kind of caregiver. Apparently, some folks aren’t quite there. I recently read how one caregiver was quite surprised at having been called a saint. So was her charge; both of them felt a caregiver’s work was a mundane a job on the level of a customer service provider. I was surprised by their attitude because, as I see it, there is no more saintly work.
As a minister, one of my roles is providing spiritual care for people. That means being involved in their lives and getting to know them in all their glory and shortcomings. A good number of my flock make use of personal assistants or other professional caregivers of some kind.
Seeing these people at work is amazing, and for me, they are indeed saints. I say this because helping another person, whether it’s because of physical or mental disability, or simply because of the limitations age brings about, is a truly special gift. I was a computer technician for 8 years. My job was mostly caring for my customers; fixing their machines was important, but not as important as helping them resume their trust in the devices that had let them down. While customer service is mostly about people, it’s very different from what personal caregivers or assistants do. Techs like myself are only involved in a business relationship; sometimes that business is in a person’s home, but it’s still about the machine and making sure the customer is satisfied.
What I have observed caregivers do is completely different. Your personal assistant cares for you as a person, not a machine. She helps you physically, but is also engaged at a very human level. With this engagement, your joy becomes her joy; your pain is her pain; your sorrow is her sorrow.
Saintly caregivers or personal assistants do as much for a person’s soul as they do for their body. That is holy work. That’s why I consider such people as living saints; they provide so much more than physical care, or the business service of a computer technician. I would even go so far as to say that they are some of the most Christ-like people I have ever been blessed to know.
The ones that truly impress me are those that work in Palliative care or in nursing homes. Those personal assistants and caregivers know that the people they help will only be in their lives for a short time, yet they still give everything they’ve got to give, and know how to deal with the inevitable sad end. It is a delicate balance that only select people can manage. It should come as no surprise to you that I believe those people deserve to be called “saints”.