What Do I Know About Caregiving?

By Reverend Jessica Tinkham  •  February 22, 2024

What do I know about caregiving?

I know I have a lot of experience taking care of other people.

I am a wife and mother of three. In my previous profession I was a preschool teacher. I am currently a healthcare Chaplain; a professional who offers spiritual caregiving to people whose health is in transition.

And yet, the answer to the question “What do I know about caregiving” doesn’t roll off my tongue in neatly wrapped cliches. I know that caregiving is a beautiful and rewarding calling. I also know that caregiving has challenges.

The Capacity to Give

I used to think that caregiving was all about the care that I could provide to other people, with little regard to how much I was capable of giving. I ended up giving a lot of myself away without replenishing my tired body and soul.

The saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ is only a partial truth. There have been plenty of times that I have poured from my empty cup into someone else. I would say the deeper wisdom is more like ‘you can pour from an empty cup, but not for forever.’

We can perhaps pour from an empty cup for a season. I poured from an empty cup throughout my children’s young childhoods. I don’t know if any caregiving season feels as long as the first five years of a child’s life, as we nurture them while they are completely dependent on us.

I believe that quality caregiving is meant to be dynamic. Caregiving involves my ability to provide care to others, to provide care to myself, and to receive and accept community caregiving.

I’m learning that quality caregiving begins with taking good care of myself. It includes replenishing my metaphorical cup with things that are good for my body, mind, and spirit.

Restorative Yoga

A new-to-me self-care practice is attending a restorative yoga class at a local yoga studio. For those who don’t know, the purpose of restorative yoga is to live into practices that support the parasympathetic nervous system - AKA rest. The whole class is designed for rest. While I am loving learning the actual practice of yoga, the self-care part of the class is stepping out of the role and expectation of caregiving. The only expectation I have of myself for the whole class time is to actively participate in resting. 

Sustainable Community Care

I’m learning to accept reciprocity in sustainable caregiving, because it is difficult to meet the expectation of caring for others and knowing how to care for myself at the same time. I believe a good name for this reciprocity in caregiving is community care.

One of the joys I experience in my career as a healthcare chaplain is praying with the residents and staff members of the community where I practice ministry. I have spent a lot of time praying with people. Recently, I started to ask people to pray for me as I pray for them. This one small change in how I practice sustainable community care has deepened my relationships with people, and it has given new life to my ministry. With this seemingly small act, I’m asking and allowing people to pour into me as I pour into them. I’m hopeful that we will find more ways to live life together, not just as individuals who occasionally cross paths.

Caregiving can be beautiful and rewarding if it is thoughtfully designed with those goals in mind. I hope more people begin to cultivate practices of quality, sustainable, community caregiving in the sea of individualistic self-care practices. 


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 is it that you do know about caregiving?
  • When have you given care while your “cup was empty”?
  • What one thing can you do to offer “sustainable community caregiving” to someone else or to your community?


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

Reverend Jessica Tinkham

Reverend Jessica Tinkham (she/her/hers) is a chaplain for United Church Homes. She and her husband have three children who keep them very busy. Rev Jessica graduated with her BA in Religion in 2010 from Wright State University and her Master of Divinity in 2019 from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. She loves traveling to the beach and the mountains and would love to see the Grand Canyon in person. Rev Jessica is creative and especially loves crocheting and hopes to learn how to quilt.

View all articles by Reverend Jessica Tinkham