Coming Full Circle

The other day I was talking with my mom and step-dad about my decision to go back to volunteering for the Canadian Red Cross.  I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t have time to do this, that I should wait until I’m finished ________ and I’m finished _________ (I could fill in the blanks with any number of things.

“It’s taken over 5 years but I am ready to go help with disaster relief again.”  I said

“Does it take that much out of you?” my mom asked.

“Oh no, I said.  It was going through Callum’s cancer treatment and death that took that much out of me.”  I replied.  “Volunteering with the Red Cross for disaster relief uplifts me, it makes me humble and I come back very grateful for everything I have.  I just didn’t have the energy after being a caregiver to do it before now.”

In my home province of Alberta, Canada, a city of 80,000 people were evacuated on May 3rd due to wildfires rushing through the city. It is a disaster of unprecedented proportion.  It’s been a long time, and finally the passion inside said “it’s time for to help.”

Why am I writing this on a blog for caregivers?

One reason is because unlike the past 2 times I’ve been deployed to disasters, I have caregivers in mind.  The hospital was evacuated.  Seniors home evacuated.  It’s tough enough some days to keep things running smoothly when you are in your own home, senior’s residence or long term care home, where everything is familiar and comfortable.  There was a 30 minute evacuation warning – that is not a lot of time to ease anyone into changing locations. There are caregivers who will benefit from additional support.  I worry that they won’t ask.  That they will sacrifice even more to make sure their loved one is properly cared for.  I hope that someone will take an extra moment to make sure the caregiver has what they need to be comforted.

The other reason is that for the past few years I have been teaching others about following your passion, not waiting for the perfect time, and then when we are in a state of gratitude and joy, we receive more reasons to be grateful and joyful.  It’s not that a disaster is a happy time.  I live by the foundation that we choose joy regardless of the situation, and I want to help others experience a few moments of joy, even in the face of profound loss and sadness.  It is time for me to walk the walk, not just talk the walk.

Two days ago I submitted my application to once again become a Canadian Red Cross volunteer. Today I applied for my police check.  I have come full circle.

In September, 2001, I applied to be a Canadian Red Cross volunteer in Medicine Hat.  By December, 2001, I was in New York City assisting with the disaster relief after 9/11.  My second deployment was to the 2003 BC Fires in September 2003.   In 2007 I was overjoyed to become a Red Cross staff in Red Deer, where I was managed the Chapter office.  I followed Callum to Saskatoon in 2008 amid much heartbreak and many tears about leaving the Canadian Red Cross.  It was the best job I’ve ever had.  I have come full circle and am ready to help out.

When you are actively caregiving, you may not be able to do everything you want to do, including following all your passions and joy.  Believe that there will be a time when you can once again do this.  Believe that in baby steps, you can do it now.  The key is to know what brings you joy and what steps can you take today to smile and laugh.


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