Being CareFULL

By Rev. John Gantt  •  March 14, 2024

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once observed that There are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

While pondering her comment, other words that begin with “care….” tumbled around in my thoughts.

Certainly the term “caregiving” feels positive and honorable. To be one who gives care to another is one who engages in a loving relationship. Many caregivers are volunteers, family members caring for one another, and some are professionals who make caregiving their vocation.

Readers familiar with the ministries of United Church Homes know that UCH is a champion at caregiving in many settings and in awesome manner. Wonderful stories are easy to find about beloved and dedicated givers of care whether in such institutions or in family homes or simply in personal relationships.

More Care Words

Another “care”-beginning word is “caretaker.” It is often defined in words similar to those used to describe caregiving. But to my ear “caretaker” feels more perfunctory as if taking care of another is like managing a property.

Other words popped into mind as I thought about this theme – words like “carekeeper” and “carefree,” or “careless” and “careworn.”

I haven’t mentioned “careful” yet. Have you noticed when we say these words aloud, there is a tendency to accent the word “care…” for example: CAREgiver, CAREfree, CAREful.

Further reflection prompted me to wonder if the usual spelling and pronunciation of the word careful is too small. How about adding a letter and changing the accent so our word becomes “care-FULL?”

I read an article that broadened the notion of CAREful-ness to care-FULLness.

The article offered a long list of traits embodied by caregivers. Among them are these:

Patience and compassion; sense of humor and respect; being a good manager of details and schedules; cooperative as part of a care team; assertive in behalf of the ones being cared for and about; and, able to accept help when a break is needed.

Put those qualities and others together and we come close to what being care-FULL is about.

What care-FULL-ness Looks Like

If you will pardon a brief personal experience about care-FULL-ness, I offer a tribute to my son and his wife. In tending to their son, my twenty-two-year-old university student grandson, they live out what I’ve come to recognize as the fullness of caring.

My grandson was struck by a car and suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI). The first surgeon to work on him carefully explained to his parents what he could do and what to expect. He also recommended the parents consider a Plan B. It was an ominous moment full of dread and fear.

Since that tragic day he has been cared for in three states and in ten different health caregiving institutions. He has moved from being completely comatose, to what is now called a minimally conscious state. That is about the extent of his improvement since the accident.

We can each recall accounts of individuals who lived in a comalike state for months, maybe years, and then regained some semblance of “normality.” But the ten months of my grandson’s story so far feels already like an eternity.

In my obvious bias, I see his parents as models for care-full-ness.

He has never been alone from early morning to late evenings when visitors and even parents are no longer permitted in the “care centers” where he lives. Whether in his hometown area, or in the third largest city in America, or in a highly specialized facility more than a seven hour drive away, they have been at his bedside.

Employment has been compromised, other obligations have been put aside, travel to be with him is a priority. His father spends every day in his son’s bedroom. He hasn’t missed a day since the accident. His mother spends every evening after work, and every weekend at his bedside.

They spend intense times on the phone, in zoom conferences, and online to keep insurance coverage intact, to hear from specialists, always devoted first to his best interests before considering their own needs.

On occasion I have the privilege of sitting with him so his parents can attend to other business or take a much-needed break.


Two Tear Types

After being with him, I have two kinds of tears. The first, of course, are caused by the agony of watching this young man who will be permanently disabled if he survives.

The other tears are full of admiration and joy. They are the result of seeing how his dad and mother are so tender and attentive. Even in their own despair, they chat to him, read to him, thoughtfully wash his face when stress causes perspiration. They touch him and kiss him to assure him they are close by even though he may be unaware of them.

They have learned how to manage various tasks necessary for his comfort--changing his clothes, fixing IV connections when they get pulled apart, exercising his stiffened limbs, noticing any movements whether reactive or responsive, and cheering him on with “Good job!” or “You’re doing great!”

Of course, they love him. Of course, the accident and resulting trauma have cost them in many different ways. But there is no cost or angst great enough to diminish how care-full they are.

You have your own caregiver stories. Treasure those caregivers around you. Know that your own caregiving, sometimes full of stress and weariness, is worthy of gratitude from those who benefit from your care.

Care-giving is one thing; being care-FULL is everything!

CareFULLness embraces the counsel of Philippians 2:4:

Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.”

Shalom, dear care-full care-givers!


For Reflection (either individually or with a group)

Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Invite the Divine to open your heart to allow the light of new understanding to pierce the shadows of embedded assumptions, stereotypes, and ways of thinking so that you may live more abundantly. Then spend some time with the following questions together with anything or anyone who helps you reflect more deeply.


  • What would you say are the most important qualities of successful caregivers?
  • When has your own caregiving been most full of stress and weariness?
  • Do you have a story of someone you know who you would describe as careFULL? Why would you use that word to describe them?


Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.

About the Author

Rev. John Gantt

Now retired, previously John served as called and interim pastor of congregations in Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Indiana. As a member of the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the UCC, he served as executive director of Crossroad, formerly Fort Wayne Children’s Home in Indiana, as interim executive of Back Bay Mission, Biloxi, MS, and as interim Director of Client Services, Back Bay Mission. On three occasions, he served as interim Conference Minister in Central Pacific Conference (Oregon and southern Idaho), Indiana Kentucky Conference, and Ohio (Heartland) Conference. He was ordained in Marion, OH in 1960, two blocks from the current location of United Church Homes, Inc.

View all articles by Rev. John Gantt