We all like to use labels.
And they are necessary, and useful. Sometimes, however, they miss the mark. They cause us to overlook questions that need to be asked, and they paint the entire situation with broad sweeps, when actually, life is a lot more intricate.
When they leave us talking about ‘them’ and ‘those people’, it’s easy to forget that some of the time, in some circumstances, those people are ‘us’.
We are all wider supporters
It doesn’t matter if we are also individuals suffering with chronic illnesses or caregivers. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met anyone with a chronic illness or we work in a hospital and it’s all we see.
People in this world are hurting, and whether their pain directly impacts our personal lives or not, we are called to be wider supporters because we are human too.
If you want to contest this, turn on the TV or open your ears. Our sisters are dying in war zones and concentration camps. Our brothers are perishing in wealthy first world nations and weeping behind closed doors.
I’m firmly convinced there are only three options. You are either suffering, Watching someone suffer close up, or Watching someone suffer from far away.
If you’re Watching someone suffer from a distance, you are a supporter for those who are Watching close up. What that looks like depends on the specific situation, but it’s important to remember that there is no clear-cut divide between caregivers and wider supporters.
Yet being a ‘wider supporter’ is still a unique role:
It is important to acknowledge that ‘them’ and ‘they’ exist.
After all, you can’t be a Watcher and a wider supporter to the same person. If you are caring for your ill mother, it is someone else’s role to support you.
In this sense, those who are our wider supporters are always ‘others’. They occupy a different role – one that we must not overlook.
Being a ‘wider supporter’ is not necessarily easier
I touched on this above, but want to elaborate because it can be easy to feel jealous of our wider supporters. After all, they get to watch from the side-lines while we crawl through the trenches!
The reality is however, that just like us they didn’t have a choice. Just like us, they are living the lives they were given in a world which doesn’t make living any life easy.
None of us meander through life without encountering at least an iota of suffering or a smidge of illness. It’s like the TV example above – even those of us inhabiting the most “refined” or “polished” corners of the world have heard and felt pain.
There are people suffering everywhere, and even if we close our eyes we cannot block out the cries of humanity. Sometimes hearing the far off roar is more overwhelming than listening to an individual’s screams.
Just because they’re ‘wider supporters’ does not mean their lives are lollipops and rainbows.
Wider supporters have the two-edged sword of choosing how to respond
If being cast into the role of a Watcher or wider supporter is unavoidable, so to is responding to that role.
We all must (and do) respond – even if our response is to walk away, to ignore, to harden our hearts and say ‘that’s not my problem’.
Unlike Watchers whose lives are forever entangled in their Loved Ones and are often unable to leave, wider supporters have the freedom to get involved as much or as little as they would like.
They can hand money to a charity to aid abuse victims and make sympathetic noises when they hear of their friend’s uncle’s diagnosis.
They can devote their lives to freeing child slaves or spend their weekends taking mentally disabled friends on trips.
The world is their oyster – and that can be incredibly difficult! It is hard to know where to start and when to stop. Hard to prioritise and choose. Hard to say ‘no’ when they have to, and ‘yes’ when they don’t.
It is also beautiful.
Sometimes a freely given sacrifice ought to be admired more than a ‘necessary’ one. Being a wider supporter means having the freedom to love in multiple ways. It is a blessing to be able to choose where to actively love but also a great responsibility.
Watchers and Wider Supporters
As Watchers, we must treasure our wider supporters and remember that in some situations we are wider supporters to others!
We do not need to envy them – their role is different to ours, but not necessarily easier. It is significant and important.
It is interesting to think that while on earth Jesus was a Watcher to those around Him, and God was a wider supporter. Now with the Holy Spirit, God fulfils both these roles (and more) and calls us to do the same.
So why do we elevate one above the other?
// Do you ever envy those who are not Watchers? Why?
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