The Sponge

August 2019

Barbara Bowen

Inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest places, says Barbara Bowen. She quit her job to become a full-time caregiver for her mother, who has dementia. “Sharing my experiences through writing helps me think, remember, and be grateful.” Bowen lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she attends Unity in the Rockies.

Seven years ago, in response to my mother’s dementia, I became her caregiver. As time passed, I wondered, What was the purpose? Fighting dementia seemed hopeless. What was mine to do? What did I still need to learn from Mom? What was her purpose?

The other day while I was in the kitchen, water spilled. I had to sop it up fast, before it ran onto the floor. The sponge on the sink had not been used since the day before. It was dry. I ran the sponge under water, wrung it out, then wiped up the liquid with it. Suddenly, this struck me as strange. Shouldn’t a dry sponge absorb more? I experimented. No, the damp sponge definitely picked up liquid faster. That seemed counterintuitive.

Then I realized the wet sponge was teaching me something about love. When a little love is in us, we are in a position to soak up more.

No matter the circumstances, love’s expression is possible. Primed with love and compassion, the heart opens itself more readily.

Priming the Heart with Love

This is not a new idea, though it may be a different usage. “Priming the pump,” “Wetting your whistle,” “It takes money to make money” all point to the same truth; if we want more of something, we can use a little of the same substance to increase supply.

How do we “prime the pump” with love? Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

One of the residents in my mother’s nursing home has cerebral palsy. His mind is clear, but people seldom know that, because his body is twisted and weak. We assume his mind must be too. When a nurse encouraged me to talk to him, I was hesitant.

But our conversation illuminated the day. He talked normally to me, even making me laugh. He “primed the pump” for me, and I hope I did the same for him. I went home with a fresh awareness of our interconnectedness, and of Spirit’s presence.

What Happens When We Access Our Inner Source

Any human experience may result in feeling nurtured: a friend who goes out of his way to be there when needed; a pet who snuggles with you; an affectionate loved one; the smell of the earth after a rain; a call center employee who patiently explains and helps. When these expressions are recognized and internalized as Spirit, a sense of well-being and gratitude arises. We access our inner Source, and love bubbles over onto others.

No matter the circumstances, love’s expression is possible. If my mother is confused and unable to use words, she can, and does, express love and gratitude with a kiss or a wave. To touch others with loving-kindness and recognize Spirit’s presence already in our lives seems a worthy purpose.

It’s clear. A dry sponge, when primed with water, can absorb faster; the heart, when primed with compassion, can share more love.

“Love one another as I have loved you.”—Jesus (John 15:12)