Christian Living

Spiritual Life

It's All in the Attitude

“This is the way we wash our clothes, so early Monday morning.” I sang this nursery rhyme so much that it got stuck in my head, much like “It’s a Small World” or “The Song that Never Ends.” (Sorry!)

As strange as it sounds, my mom and I enjoyed washing clothes. Laundry steps for me were: wash, dry, and fold. But with Alzheimer’s, my mom’s steps were: put clothes (preferably only dirty ones) in basket, find dish soap (yep!), go to laundry room, put clothes in washer, return to Assisted Living room, write down location of laundry, sit in room, check note to see where laundry is, return to laundry room, put wet clothes in dryer, return to room, sit in room, check note to see where it is, return to laundry room, remove clothes from dryer, put in basket, return to room, and fold.

If Mom got interrupted during the process, she forgot she even had laundry! I offered to help, but she insisted on doing it herself. Mom desired clean clothes, but what she really wanted was independence. Alzheimer’s stole that from her, and I was called to serve as caregiver.

God created caregivers. Adam served God by caring for His creation. Eve served God as a helpmate for Adam. Abigail said, “I am ready to serve you” (1 Samuel 25:41 NIV). King Jehoshaphat ordered, “You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 19:9 NIV).

Jesus dwelled among us, not “to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45 NIV), and He taught that how we serve is more important than what service we do.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were siblings, and they deeply loved Jesus. Their story taught me the importance of attitude (how) versus action (what).

Martha and Mary wanted to honor Jesus for saving Lazarus. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His words. Martha prepared a huge feast, but said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40 NIV). Jesus acknowledged Martha’s concerns, but told her, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NIV).

According to John’s account, Mary took about a pint of nard, poured it on Jesus’ feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3 NIV). Mary’s actions were more than just sitting at Jesus’ feet! She anointed them with expensive perfume. It wasn’t only the fragrance of perfume that filled the air—it was the sweet fragrance of a grateful, servant’s heart. While Jesus appreciated Martha’s actions, what He really desired was Mary’s attitude.

Mary, Martha, and Jesus were servant caregivers. Caregiving and serving aren’t just about what is done—it’s how it’s done. Sometimes I washed Mom’s laundry or took her to appointments. But often I sat at her feet, held her hands, and allowed compassion to replace her anxiety. My attitude was far more important to Mom than my actions. She forgot what I did, but she remembered how she felt because of how I did them. Size of contribution doesn’t matter to someone with Alzheimer’s. What matters is the condition of the heart that gives it.

It was hard to see Mom struggle with simple tasks. But it allowed me to enter her world of Alzheimer’s and recognize, for a moment, how it felt to have the disease. Caregiving allowed me to be Martha and Mary to my mom, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus for the “least of these.” He said,

“I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40 NIV). And it reminded me that Jesus is always my servant caregiver because He always is, always was, and always will be with me.

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