“If all the world is a commodity, how poor we grow. When all the world is a gift in motion, how wealthy we become.” 
— Robin Kimmerer, “Braiding Sweetgrass” 

Taking care of others has never been my strong suit. When I was in middle school, my mother went back to college to deepen her nursing education at St. Kate’s. Eventually, she became a nurse practitioner. A neighbor asked if I would follow in my mother’s footsteps — nursing still seemed to be one of the primary job opportunities for young women — which might have fueled my desire to start a completely unnecessary neighborhood newspaper as my training ground instead.

I recently spent a week relieving my mother by taking care of my father, who has dementia, so that she could get a week to recharge in Arizona. The funds my mother saved from her nursing career are what enabled me to make the down payment to purchase this magazine — one of many investments she has made on behalf of family. Hers is a classic story of the power of everyday women.

While with my dad, I edited the articles in this issue. Stories from:

• Lindsey, who describes her work with the Syrian refugee crisis.
• Robin, a nurse, who advocates for patients and co-workers and volunteers 
in her spare time for the needs of people who are homeless.
• Aida, who has given herself permission to slow down.
• The women in our expanded Reader Response section, who invest energy not only in others, but in themselves.

As cheré (whose name is not capitalized), a doula in a unique collective, put it: “It feels like a special sacred space — the work we do and the relationships we cultivate with each other and the culture that we create.”

The week with my father did feel sacred. It was a gift to me to reverse our roles from decades ago, helping him get ready for bed, turning out his light, and saying goodnight. My patient 14-year-old son was by my side — also a gift — using his spring break time to repetitively explain things to his grandfather. It was a rare extension of care I could give my mother, who gave herself the luxury of reading a book.

A gift in motion: when we see care as giving, not as taking, and freely offer our powers as interdependent beings to create spaces for each other.

Giving Care With All of the Living

A few days after my mother returned, I had the privilege of interviewing Robin Kimmerer for a future issue of this magazine. She is a scientist and the author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.”

She says our tendency is to make an "it" of other living beings. In a public conversation in front of a few hundred, with local author Heid Erdrich, Kimmerer suggested we might consider replacing “he,” “she,” and “it” with the word “ki,” which comes from the Ojibwe word “aki,” or “the land.” The plural form of this non-binary, non-othering word, she suggested, could be “kin.” A collective gasp of acceptance was audible in the crowd.

Kimmerer writes that true leadership is about generosity — giving wisdom and care to others. In her soothing, lyrical way, she indicates that modern humans have forgotten how to listen to the earth as a living force that gives us care.

She writes: “How, in our modern world, can we find our way to understand the earth as a gift again, to make our relations with the world sacred again? Even in a market economy, can we behave as if the living world were a gift?”

Strawberries, for example, simply give themselves to us. Humans have made them a commodity that can be bought and sold. “The market economy story has spread like wildfire, with uneven results for human well-being and devastation for the natural world. But it is just a story we have told ourselves and we are free to tell another.”

Humans might better learn to share our own gifts, “to celebrate our kinship with the world. We can choose.”
In this issue, we look at the role of women as gifts of living care.

In the coming issues, we dig more deeply into how women nourish 
community through food and place.