Very interesting stuff from Tammy Ruiz, who has worked in perinatal NICU and hospice centers for most of her career, and who recently and unexpectedly lost her husband. She has witnessed many crises, much grief, and many people behaving with compassion and selflessness
She says it’s not only theoloically inaccurate to call someone an “angel” when they demonstrate what seems like heroic virtue, but it can provide us with an excuse to avoid even trying to do the right thing. Calling someone an “angel” implies that they have superhuman abilities — that they are a different type of being altogether — and we can’t even hope to imitate them.
Instead, here is what she has seen:
When I worked for a hospice, one of the most amazing parts of the job was watching the evolution of the caregivers who often went from “I could never ever _____ even if my parent needed me to” to “this is really hard but I’m sort of doing it” finally to “it was really hard to care for my dying parent but I did it and I am proud of myself.” Properly caring for the dying takes everybody working together, not just waiting for the “angel” hospice nurse to arrive.
A great reminder, which draws out a useful distinction: It’s very common, lately, for people to urge each other to just take small steps, and to be content with trying. But this misses the mark. We take small steps because we’re weak and limited — but the small steps will make us stronger, so that we eventually can achieve more. We’re not creatures of superhuman virtue; but neither should we be content with our limitations.