The Path of Service

The path of service seems to be calling. 

gift economy, service

Mom’s house in Northern Virginia.

My mother’s health continues to decline and I want to help her. I’ve offered to move back to the Northern Virginia and help her take care of the house, daily living, yard work, etc. The challenge for me is how to support myself in a very expense area. The challenge for my mother is giving up her independence. We’ve discussed the idea of me living in her house as one possible solution. Then she could stay in the house (and gardens) that she loves and I could help with daily tasks and live affordably.

So far, my mother has not been willing to let me move in with her, and I have not been willing to move across the country to a very expensive area with no clear way to support myself. Thankfully, my brother lives in the area and provides some help, but not as much as she needs or wants given that he has a very busy career and family life.

Meanwhile, the notion of offering various caretaking services feels inspiring to me. I enjoy being of service and doing simple domestic things like cooking, cleaning, organizing, and yard work. I’ve considered starting a business to offer those services, but haven’t taken action so far. This might be the motivation that I need.

This glimmer of new work/ life direction would involve offering my help to people on a gift basis. I could offer cooking, cleaning, organizing, simplifying and general caretaking services, asking for a donation of whatever someone can afford. I’m also considering offering these services to people around the country (or the world) in exchange for room and board as a way to combine travel and service. And I’m open to property caretaking in exchange for room and board. The challenge might be the expense of getting to the locations if I’m not earning any income. Once I’m on site, there would be no money involved, but rather a simple exchange of goods and services.

I like the idea of living in service, focused on giving, rather than making money.  The gift economy is a growing model for living and working that aligns with my values. It feels like a good way to offer my time, skills and love to people who might just need a helping hand.

I’m asking for feedback on this idea about whether it has merit, sufficient demand, and provides a valuable service.

Is it reasonable to ask people to pay my travel expenses one-way, plus provide room and board in exchange for providing a variety of caretaking services? Are there enough people who need help and would be willing to pay or provide room and board?

What do you think?

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37 thoughts on “The Path of Service

      • Well, being a guest in someone’s home is one thing, visiting family and friends and offering to help them out is cool. But taking up residence, for any length of time, with there being an equal exchange of goods and services needs to be contractual. For YOUR protection. The person with whom you live may be all for it but should they have a family member who is not keen on the idea, they could make like a bit sticky for you. I speak from personal experience here. Innocent ideas are not always seen as such by those who do not share your vision.

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  1. I like your idea of trading service for room and board and I would suggest two-way travel expenses. My partner and i once took care of a house and yard (another form of care taking) in the Bahamas in return for room and board. It was a wonderful experience. Win-win. Give-give.

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  2. Brad, this is an important solution that brings people together to share their skills and resources in order to help each other. It’s something I remember from my work with elders decades ago. People who needed housing and elders who needed assistance to remain in the community were matched. Often, they became like a family. As others pointed out above, however, there needs to be a clear contractual agreement to protect both parties. A quick Google search suggests it is still viable: http://homeshare.org/. “Homeshare” may not work with relatives, but it is certainly something to explore. I wish you luck with this new idea. 🙂

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  3. There are two parts to this blog…the first being a carer for your Mother, which I think could be an excellent idea, and as you say gently move you into that direction. As you may remember my Mother died last December after a nine year struggle, during which time I oversaw her care, for three years in her home at first and then six years in a nursing home…..Although there were time when I wondered if I could ever survive…it really was worth it in so many ways…not least of which it was the time when my Mother and I really got to know one another….As far as house sitting, which is what we call it over here….it’s very common practise in the UK and I believe many parts of Europe and indeed the world. I know if you google ‘house sitting’ all sorts of ideas will come up…in short it is something that is done and many people take advantage of it. If it entails travel expenses…I think that is something which can be negotiated between the house owner and house sitter. I would definitely look into it….and will be most interested to see where this new adventure takes you Janet 🙂 x

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    • Thank you Janet. I’m glad you had that opportunity with your mother. I would love to spend the time getting to know my mother and her history more deeply. I like the housesitting, but am not sure about globetrotting with my mother’s health. I appreciate you sharing your experience.

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  4. Brad, I hope you find a good way to care for your mother that works out for both of you. You can check out WOOF opportunities in the area, there should be plenty in WV. You get to do some farm/homesteading chores while being provided with room and board and fresh organic food by a host family. Or farm sitting or home sitting for someone. I will keep an eye for you as I am also on a lookout for such opportunities. What town/city in WV is she at? I have membership on WOOF website. I think you will be able to find something.
    Best of luck!!
    Kristina

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  5. Ah! Seems we are in similar places, Brad. I hope that things work out for you. I worry about your Mom’s reticence to have you move home. It is a very hard time…your Mom is trying to hold on to her independence with all she has and yet her health and safety may require that some of it be TAKEN. I send lots of love and good energy that what needs to happen, will. It can be a wonderful time to spend with your Mom…but it is not without challenges. Lots of love…

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  6. As senior folks (your mom is a perfect example) get older and older, they will need such a service, Brad.

    I have a friend who clearly needed her daughter’s help but was not willing to let her move in, for reasons of independence. This went on for a good while until she changed her mind. The ideal thing, of course, would be to have side-by-side apartments/suites so each person still has their privacy and independence.

    A donation is a good idea, but you have been through some challenging times — make sure you are able to save some money while you are following the path of service. Think of how you will support your own older years.

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    • Wise tips on both issues Cynthia. I do need to be mindful of my finances and yes, the ideal situation with my mom would be connected homes/ apartments of some kind, but she’s also attached to her home. 🙂 It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

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  7. A life of service sprinkled with wisdom is always a noble undertaking. There is certainly a need for it in todays world. We feel it is such an important endeavor. So go for it Brad bringing with you joy, creativity and sensitivity.

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  8. My grandmother is in the business of service and care and absolutely loves it! She loves all of the people that she helps. She once told me that they start as customers but then grow to become valuable friends that you can learn so much from. It sounds like an amazing business to me!

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      • Yes, I would be too, it’s a very big idea and there’s lots to consider entering into something like that. I wonder if there are any agencies out there that exist for this type of thing that you could inquire about it with?
        It’s too bad that your Mom isn’t willing to let you stay in her house while you help her as her health declines, but that’s not an easy situation either. Take it from me, moving back in with your Mom, even if you’re very close and on the best of terms, isn’t a walk in the park. 😉
        Well, give this idea of yours some more thought, do some investigating, and see if any doors open up. I wish you success either way, my friend. And peace. 🙂

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      • Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions Julie. I like your idea to explore options and see what opens up. And yes, I know it wouldn’t be easy to live with my mom. Her smoking is a big challenge for me. blessings, Brad

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  9. Wow. This seems like a good idea but my days (or rather nights) of watching scary -bad people hurting good people makes me worry of how safe this would be. Don’t let my overactive imagination influence you. Just make sure to take the necessary precautions when you do decide to take this on. The idea is cool and something I find could work in the long run!

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  10. This sounds really intriguing Brad – I think it would be an interesting and fulfilling way to live if you could make it work. I’ve certainly heard of agencies who offer services such as house-sitting and pet-sitting when their owners are away, which would allow you to do what you want but also offer some protection.

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  11. I think you have something Brad….after reading through everyones comments…there are some obstacles to overcome, but I think you are onto something…I am a firm believer that when the right solution comes along….that door will stand wide open for you!!

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  12. I hope things work out for your Mom Brad and that she gets the care she needs.. It sounds like you are really inspired in this direction.. Have you ever considered Support Working? For this often entails the very things you speak of..
    Follow your heart Brad.. it will lead you to the right path and what is needed.. I am sure..
    Love to you and Yours.
    Sue ❤

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      • I was a Support Worker for 11 yrs, helping individuals in their own homes, who lived in groups in a house. In fact there were 4 houses on one street which was owned by local authorities whereby those with Autism, Downs Syndrom and other Learning Difficulties lived in groups of three or four..
        We looked after them 24/7 with one on Sleep duty for the four houses on call.. We would rota in turns as our shifts fell.. We would support with Personal Care, budgeting, shopping, finances, arrange holidays, trips out and enroll them for courses, such as crafts, cooking etc..
        We would help teach them how to be more independent.. Teaching Life Skills..Many had challenging behaviors so things could get a little hairy at times.. and I was attacked twice..
        I later moved into mental health a similar roll for three years.. This was to someone who had schizophrenia. again 24/7 but this was lone working.. And this was very demanding.. Lots of violence and we got lots of verbal.. So When I turned 60 I said I was too old to continue with the job, its very mentally demanding..
        But it was still rewarding.. As this last client previously had spent 7 yrs locked up in a mental institution, they would repeatedly try to self harm.. So to see them blossom and learn to trust again, was very rewarding..
        Your health-aid is similar by the sounds of it… But we were there to support their whole way of life, not just for the interim.. 🙂 Hope you find something to suit you Brad 🙂

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      • yes the pay is not the best in the world for sure.. 🙂 And agencies pay less than local authorities.. But at least here now the minimum living wage has risen to £7-50 per hour now. with a recent government rise this year.

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