Usually, my “caregiving” blogs relate to caring for an ill or demented loved one. However, two recent experiences made me realize we are all hurting more than usual. The constant drumbeat of wars and their victims, of a paralyzed and hostile Congress, of a cut-throat election year looming ahead, create a miasma of general unease.

We all need a bit of caregiving.

And sometimes that unease is not general, but specific. Despite reports of economic improvement (inflation reduced and recession avoided, growing number of jobs, steady or lowering interest rates), people simply aren’t feeling it.

When I went to a nationally known pharmacy chain store to get my Covid vaccination for this year, the pharmacist spoke from his heart as we sat hidden behind the privacy screen. With no prodding from me, he told how corporate lays off pharmacists and asks those still on the job to work 10 hour shifts. A fellow pharmacist offered to come in and work a few hours on his day off to help his fellow professionals. On top of that, someone in management canceled his planned March vacation!

I write “professionals” for a reason. Does this chain think pharmacy technicians can replace pharmacists? If so, I’m switching pharmacies.

I sympathized with the guy because I noticed companies exploiting the challenging Covid years by raising prices and compromising quality through staffing cuts or replacing skilled professionals with technicians. (Would it be too much to expect a human being to answer the phone rather than a recording?) When I said as much, he gave me a fist bump and said, “Thanks for listening.” He sounded so grateful! How sad.

A few weeks later, while checking into a hotel, the twenty-something desk clerk asked if I was a writer when I gave him my email address. When I said I was, he told me how much he wanted to write, but felt there were barriers in his way. I encouraged him to follow his dream and shared some resources available for writers and their craft. We talked for quite a while and then he said, “Thanks for listening.” He sounded so pathetically grateful.

Unspoken Pain

When both those young men thanked me for listening, I could hear sadness paired with relief in their voices. They needed to share their angst, and rightly so. The world today is more unfeeling and hostile than even a few years ago. It’s far more difficult now to navigate the life challenges my generation sailed through.

I valued the opportunity to “mother” them by covering their wounds with the salve if just listening.

There is great healing power in that.