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The Rev. Benjamin Pratt The Rev. Benjamin Pratt
Dr. Pratt is a retired United Methodist pastor and pastoral counselor. He was the founding pastor of a congregation that remains, after 48 years, one of the most racially integrated of the Virginia Annual Conference. Then, for thirty years he was a pastoral counselor on Capitol Hill and in the City of Fairfax.

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Facing Our Biggest Fear: Come Rewrite the Calendar with Me!

January 10, 2013


Note to Leaders in Congregations: Across the United States, more than 60 million caregivers provide the daily lifeline of services to people facing everything from cancer to chronic disability. But, these caregivers tend to fall away from their own congregations, given the demands of their daily work. At a time when church attendance continues to shrink overall, we need these good men and women in our congregations. And, through, we are hearing loud and clear that these noble yet often stressed individuals need us. Help them by reaching out and recommending resources like this new idea I'm sharing today. Stop by for more ideas and inspiration every week.

Is the calendar your enemy? Many people see hope in a new calendar. But caregivers? We see looming medical tests and family traditions we can no longer follow. One woman told me that, year after year, she dreads March-because she lost six loved ones all in March! The winter months can be especially dark. Note my previous prayer seeking light in our dark times.

As 2013 opens, I'm ready to tackle the Big One: Time itself! At least, I'm tackling the way we let time shape our hopes and fears. I'm marching up to the calendar, pen in hand, and I'm rewriting the holidays! Not only that, I'm declaring new holidays with twists guaranteed to boost my spirits.

Come on! Try this with me through 2013. Email us with your new holiday ideas at As I spot great reader contributions, I will weave them into our new Caregiver's Calendar in occasional updates. Together, dear readers, we might get a creative, hopeful movement going. Is your mind rolling, already? I refuse to complicate this brave new idea with a lot of rules, but let me strongly recommend one practice: As you dream up a new holiday with me-plan for someone to cover your caregiver duties on that day. It's a very valuable idea. We all know that physically and spiritually healthy caregivers pace themselves. So, plan ahead for days "off."

Here we go! We're starting with some "real" holidays, anniversaries and milestones. Then, we're adding some twists.


JAN 21-Today, let's stop and solemnly take an oath as volunteer caregivers. When we assume we have no choice about our work, we are walking a dangerous path. Research shows that caregivers who see their work as a personal choice feel more purpose, vitality and joy. Today, take a break and recite this inaugural oath: "I give myself freely, with love and devotion, to choose each day to be a volunteer caregiver of my beloved. I shall do so by calling upon the support of my community and my God. I shall seek to care for myself so I may do my task with purpose and devotion, so help me God."


FEB 2-The groundhog teaches us that we all have a choice. Even if it feels as though the whole world is watching, we can say: "Yes" or "No." As caregivers, we like to please. Most of us say "Yes" until we are exhausted. So, as the world watches Punxsutawney Phil, we'll each pick a moment to say: "No." Need support for that idea? Read Cindy LaFerle's column: Disappoint someone today? Good. That's a start.


PICK A DATE-This works! My wife and I experienced it last year and I urge you to join me in making it an annual celebration. Here's what happened: My wife was recovering from surgery. One day, three of our friends conspired to send us a flurry of texts and emails to make us laugh. What a boost! Ask friends to give you this gift on February 3-Super Bowl Sunday-or ask them to surprise you one day. Imagine wondering when this might descend on you? Better yet, conspire with your friends to give a Super Bowl of Laughter to someone else!


FEBRUARY 14-Who needs flowers? You do. A bouquet works, but consider planning ahead for a blooming pot of Narcissus on Valentine's Day. These blossoms are bright, white stars reminding you of love and hope.


PICK A DATE-How long has it been since you talked to your dearest friend? Yesterday or years ago-it is time to call again. Use a telephone or Skype-but make the call. Remember: We express our love more by listening than by talking. So, the real focus on this holiday is the listening part of these calls. Set aside enough time; encourage your dear friend to listen to your stories, as well.


MARCH 4-That's the day our 13th president left office. We don't recall much about him except his installation of the first bathtub with plumbing in the White House. So, let's celebrate the end of his hard work with warm water, bath salts, bubbles, rubber ducky, candles and music. Sink in. Thank Millard!


PICK A DATE-Plan ahead for this special occasion on which you will share your personal story honestly with a trusted friend. Too often, we are like Shakespeare's Cordelia in King Lear. She is a noble figure caught up in the tragedy of Lear, partly because she has difficulty expressing herself to her father: "I cannot heave my heart into my mouth," she says. As caregivers, our feelings often are suppressed until they lead to confusion. Sometimes they spill out in sighs, tears or laughter-the languages our body uses when we don't have words. On Cordelia Day, honesty rules. Think of this as an in-person National Talk to Your Dearest Friend Day.


APRIL 1-Perfectionists are on a steep slope as caregivers. We need the spiritual wisdom of imperfection. Instead of playing practical jokes on April 1, give yourself permission to say: "So what!" Today, it honestly doesn't matter if the floor isn't vacuumed, some dishes aren't washed, our loved ones sleep in their pants and not their PJs. Obsession with perfection eventually drives everyone nuts. Today, reset your priorities: Let go! So what!


There's the first quarter of 2013. I'll be back with more-but only if you chime in with your ideas to encourage more of this wise-and-wacky redrawing of the calendar. Add a comment via the link above-or email us at


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