I received an email from a friend the other day asking about what had happened to love in our work. Have we tried, he wondered, to remove love from our work through a professional distancing? Well, it got me to wondering about love and caring. After all we do work in the field of Youth Care. I wondered to myself what the “care” in Youth Care meant.
As I am sometime wont to do I reverted to an old high school behaviour and dragged out my battered Webster’s to see what it had to say ...
Care: 1. mental pain; worry; anxiety. 2. Close attention; watchfulness; heed. 3. A liking or regard (for); inclination (to do something). 4. Charge; protection; custody.
Love: 1. strong affection for or attachment to someone. 2. a strong liking for interest in something: as, her love of acting. 3. A strong, usually passionate, affection, for a person.
I was struck by the simplicity of the difference between the two as defined in the dictionary. I noticed how care included worry and anxiety, watchfulness and heed; and I noticed the power of the words charge, protection and custody. In love I saw the attachment and affection. But mostly I noticed that “care” seemed more focussed on other and the other’s well-being.
I hear conversations all the time about love and caring. Especially about whether or not we do, or should, “love” the children with whom we work. Myself, I always end up referring to intentionality. And I think that intentionality involves self and other. I think, perhaps, that caring is for other, and love is for self.
I know that a dictionary is only a shortcut to real meaning. And I know that love and caring are always personally defined. But sometimes it helps to go back to the basics. This is, after all, the field of youth care, and the basics are our foundation.