Jimmy Carter: How the Bible inspires caregivers

Jimmy Carter’s publication of his own Bible study reflections and prayers is a treasure trove of inspiration and wisdom about the challenges we face in the world today. One theme that runs through Carter’s writing is: caregiving.
In Part 2 of our interview with the former president, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm asks about caregiving—an issue that is vital for millions of Americans.

You’ll also want to read:
Part 1: How the Bible can help us find peace
And, Part 3: How a ‘Violent’ Bible Can Train Peacemakers Today


CRUMM: I’m pleased to find in your new Bible some real encouragement for caregivers. I have on my shelf your wife Rosalynn’s wonderful book on caregiving, which I think still stands up as one of the best books on the subject. From your new Bible, here’s just one example from Leviticus 19. You highlight the passage, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.” Then, in one of your reflections for Bible readers, you warn about something that people who’ve served in the trenches of caregiving understand: You say that the people who need our care often are not very friendly and often may seem unattractive to us, at first. Say a word to our readers about this kind of spiritual challenge.

CARTER: You’re right about Rosalynn’s book: It’s one of the best. She is still a national leader on caregiving and has a major program at Georgia Southwestern State University. What she points out is that almost every one of us at some point in our lives is going to be a caregiver—or is going to be the recipient of the blessings of a caregiver. This is a matter of biblical teaching for Christians and Jews. And these principles also are central to the teachings of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. We are to take whatever we have been given—our own health and longevity—as a blessing from God and we are to invest that in some way for the benefit of those who need our help. In our experience with caregiving, this invariably turns out to be not a sacrifice on our part but a new addition to our life. We are stretching our hearts and minds to encompass other people and we find that adds vibrancy and excitement and unpredictability and adventure to life.

Click the Bible cover to visit its Amazon page.CRUMM: At ReadTheSpirit, we’ve done a lot of work with readers and congregations nationwide to to help the 65 million caregivers out there serving people in this way. I can envision your devotional Bible as a daily inspiration to help people working as caregivers. Sometimes, that work can be draining.

CARTER: As you’ve just pointed out, 1 in 5 Americans are caregivers and quite often their devotion is to someone they love, without pay. This can be a personal sacrifice that quite often is unappreciated. Rosalynn makes this point, too. We not only need to be concerned for all of the people receiving care—but also for the millions who are working in this dedicated way as caregivers. We know that this kind of effort is a basic premise that permeates biblical teaching.

If we are blessed with long life or good health or fortune of some kind, we need to share what we have with others. The golden rule is emphasized repeatedly in both Old and New Testaments: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. We can always imagine ourselves being disabled or bedridden or mentally debilitated with a condition like Alzheimer’s and needing care. We can appreciate the benefits from a recipient’s point of view and this realization may help us to be more open to sharing our resources with those who need that kind of care.

And I must say again: Quite often, it may seem to be a sacrifice at first—yet it almost always turns into a gratifying experience.

PHOTO CREDIT: Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter volunteer in a Ghana clinic in 2007. Photo by Louise Gubb, used courtesy of The Carter Center.

Care to read more about Caregiving?

ROSALYNN CARTER’s 1995 book, Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers, currently is out of print, but is available from Amazon re-sellers.

DR. BENJAMIN PRATT’s new book, A Guide for Caregivers, is a great starting place for raising your spirits in this challenging work. Dr. Pratt’s subtitle says it all: “Keeping Your Spirit Healthy When Your Caregiver Duties and Responsiblities Are Dragging You Down.”

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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