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Caring from the Heart

Having explored the Bible’s connections between “heart” and “soul” in Growing Generous Souls, I was drawn to a book called Caring from the Heart: The Convergence of Caring and Spirituality, edited by M. Simone Roach.

At first blush, this book and the Bible seem like an odd connection, but not really. It is written by a dozen people who are caregivers in their personal or professional lives: nurses and doctors, researchers, academics, teachers, an artist, a musician, and family members. They have studied or experienced the links between caring relationships and spirituality, which she calls the search for meaning. As Roach defines “spirituality,” it draws a person away from his or her “counterfeit self,” which pulls people into self-interest and isolation, and into a “journey toward the true self.” This perked up my ears, since Growing Generous Souls delves into some of the greatest Christian thinkers and philosophers about this journey from the “false” to “true self” – one’s soul.

Reflecting on themes in her book, Roach says spirituality is both “being alive with a sense of God” and also “reflecting on and responding to the gifts and woundedness of others” to make a better world. Her description reminded me of the two essential dynamics of any healthy community: koinonia and diakonia, roughly translated as Communion-community relationships and ministry service to others.

Simone Roach is a religious sister with a career in multiple aspects of nursing, and many of the book’s contributors are professionals in the medical field. She remembers tending an impoverished, dying woman in India. The woman’s poor surroundings had little impact, but Roach felt the deep power of the community in the people surrounding the woman, the spiritual bond between them, and her feeling of that time as “sacred space.”

In the human act of caring, Roach says, each of us becomes “a more authentic human being,” acting on our experience of connectedness with that person, his or her community, one’s self, and God. And the connection goes both ways. For example, when a nurse chose to stay with a homeless man until he took his last breath, he was comforted by her presence, the healing of her touch, and the warmth of her concern. At the same time, she felt a sense of fulfillment, completion of her promise-keeping, and companionship in that most important stage of his life journey.

Underneath the various, often academic, contributions in the book are two essential dynamics of what I call a “soulful community:” interrelationships, and self-transcendence. Caring from the heart makes us more human, Roach says, as we respond from the core of our being.

Betsy Schwarzentraub