Circles of Care: Comfort in, Dump out

As we say each Sunday: “Let this be our covenant: … and to help one another.” These words have been at the core of so much of our ministry this winter. I don’t recall another time since my arrival in Concord with so many of us in need of care or involved in providing care. Whether it is people slipping on the ice, or people facing the effects of cancer or other scary medical diagnoses. Whether its people suffering from the impact of dementia and other mental health challenges, or people grieving the loss of spouses, parents, children, and other loved ones. And then there is the seasonal darkness affecting many and the anxiety lots of us feel around the general state of the world.

Let us remember to be gentle with each other. And gentle with ourselves. And kind. What self-care will ground us to find the strength, patience, and courage we need – as we give and receive? May we remember the Ring Theory which reminds us to “Comfort In” and “Dump Out.”

Let me explain: In most situations there are concentric circles of care. In the center is the aggrieved or afflicted person. Surrounding that person is a circle of a few people who are the closest, often family or a best friend. Surrounding that circle is another circle, a circle of true friends, surrounded by additional circles of colleagues, acquaintances, members of the community, and ultimately friends of friends and the general public.

What the Ring Theory suggests is that we recognize where in the concentric circles of care we are located and then provide whatever comfort we can toward the center of the circle (“Comfort In”) while we use the circles on the outside to find strength and process what has been challenging (“Dump Out”). For example, if my sister is in the hospital and I am part of her inner circle of support, I provide what care I can and then turn to someone in an outer circle if I am frustrated about a nurse or another sibling, or need time to process my own sadness or fears. Even if my sister has always been the strong one, this is not the time to lean on her.

It has been inspiring to see how our church community has been a part of so many  circles of care this winter. Thank you for being there – listening, singing, cooking, driving, smiling and touching (when invited), crying and laughing, calling and visiting, writing cards and checks, connecting in love. And thank you to those who have asked for support – for trusting your congregation, for having the courage to be vulnerable, and for being gracious and forgiving when our circles failed to show up or comfort as intended.

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