Wednesday, March 20, 2013
CaringBridge, Connecting People
I think unfortunately that when new forums or technologies are presented to the public, we have very little grace for how they fit what we have done traditionally or are using presently. In the case of CaringBridge, I think when most people first encounter it, they expect something very different from what they end up with, but I don’t believe this is in anyway a bad thing. For CaringBridge, it’s important that we have even more grace in technology, because it is built for the purpose of expressing something that is *intensely* personal, and we put ourselves in a distanced, but vulnerable state when using this forum.
From a perspective of community care, CaringBridge and sites like it, even via Facebook, have great potential as an extra step above and beyond what we can or would do in person. This type of posting, if the patient or another can post in their stead allows for a connection to occur in ways that are difficult to sustain with multiple people in a once a week visitation or church setting. I can speak from personal experience here I guess, as I've been able to use CaringBridge for just such a use in my own life.
An acquaintance of mine from college whom I participated in ministry with went in for what should have been a routine surgery and left with mountains of other problems. She began using CaringBridge as a way of updating her family, close friends, and church as she was limited in her mobility and couldn't see those she cared about as frequently as she would like. When I met Sarah, she was wanting to join us at our women's retreat but was worried about her restrictions limiting her involvement. We talked, and I assured her that I would be more than happy to do anything I could to make it so her participation wouldn't be limited and that she could stay as long or as little as she would like. That weekend she joined us for just a few hours one afternoon, but genuinely enjoyed herself, and we continued talking on a semi-regular basis from that time forward. I was also informed of the nature of her medical issues, and started following her CaringBridge regularly to keep up with her and what was going on in her life.
About 2 years later, we were mostly out of touch, though I still regularly followed her CaringBridge and Facebook, commenting occasionally, when she mentioned that she loved reading, and had just gotten a kindle because it was difficult to hold the weight of a book for long periods of time, and it was much easier to read lying down with the e-reader. I was elated, because I loved my kindle and I wanted her to be able to enjoy it to the very fullest, so I purchased an e-giftcard from Amazon for her to buy the next book in the series she was reading and emailed it to her without another thought. To my surprise, I saw her later that week in a local store on one of her very few times out of the house in a week with her mom. I was thrilled to see her, but remember her condition I asked first if I could hug her. She said yes and we embraced, but it was her mother's reaction that captured me. Her eyes had watered, and she gently thanked me for asking, and for taking into consideration her daughters medical state. I have been moved beyond words for that moment ever since, grateful that we are blessed to be using a website that allows for the type of communication that can still move us to tears in the presence of one another.
What does my story mean for the larger community? Well, it means read and be involved.
CaringBridge is not a substitution, it's an addition. We must still carefully respect the medical details of any person whether they choose to post them openly or not, we must be aware of our presence so that we do not overly engage ourselves at the sake of one person or another, but not so distant that it may lead someone to believe the church by proxy doesn't care for them. I'm trying to remember in my use, to acknowledge what I know about a persons situation and from where (and sometimes even from who!) so that I can start a conversation on relevant information, or avoid a conversation if they've already expressed frustration with such an issue already. I think there is also something to be said within the church community to keep CaringBridge as a resource for families and individuals who are interested in this type of communication with their loved ones, possibly connecting them with computer savvy individuals or youths who could teach them how to use the basic site and get them set up to do so if they were interested.