Asking Why

Two things to know about me:

  1. I question authority.
  2. I am a rule follower.


I want to do the right thing, but only if I know why it’s the right thing.


Years ago, my workplace started an initiative where every unit on the hospital would have a designated  CARITAS room. It would be a relaxing place for the nurses to go each shift to “get away.” The hospital went so far as to pay us all to attend an in-service on the new idea and mandated each nurse to take this break each shift.


During the Q&A portion of the in-service, I asked what CARITAS meant.


“Your unit’s CARITAS room will be a place for you to go each 12 hour shift to feel as though you are off the unit, while still being there,” the facilitator said.


Yeah, I got that. (You said that during the presentation I just sat through.) “I understand what it’s for, but what does CARITAS mean?”


“It is the room you can go to for your break.”


“Yes. I understand. I’d like to know why it’s called CARITAS. Does it stand for anything? Is it an acronym? If it’s a word, what does it mean?”


“It’s just what we are calling the room you can go to as a place of retreat from the demands of your job.”


Okay, thanks. (I’ll figure it out myself.)


At home (this was in a day when we didn’t all have smart phones) I looked it up:





noun: caritas

  1. Christian love of humankind; charity.

Origin: mid 19th century: Latin.


Easy enough. Charity. In order to take good care of my patients, I would be given a chance to take a break and recharge.


But it was more than that.


Caritas is a Latin word meaning charity, but it’s use in the hospital comes from a nursing theory (yes, there are nursing theorists) called the Caring Theory. One of the principles of this theory is “creating healing spaces for nurses; sanctuaries for their own time out; May include meditation or relaxation rooms for quiet time.” (1)


The practice of retreating while at work lasted less than a year. The unit got busy. In time, management didn’t care to encourage it’s use. The dynamic of it’s purpose shifted—“CARITASing” went from an expected essential to a selfish indulgence. For many reasons, there was no value in it anymore.


~ ~ ~


My three year old is in a pretty solid WHY? holding pattern. Every blessed thing, this child needs to know Why.


I know it’ll pass. When I’m in a good mood,  it’s kinda cute. But it’s hard. WHYWHYWHYWHYWHY?


This morning, we paused before eating breakfast to pray. At least two children made exasperated sighs before folding their hands and taking a moment out of their busy morning routines (usually spent fighting with one another) to say a word of thanks.


As we ate, I asked them. Why do we pray before our meals?


It’s really easy to get to a place where I assume my older kids “get it.” But they’re kids. They often don’t really get anything. I need to continually be addressing the WHYs with my children.


My answers to these questions are simple because my kids are still pretty young. Although they can handle big concepts, many of our discussions are spontaneous and casual. This is how we do life, and why.


Why do we pray for our food?

If you had no food and someone gave you some, you would say Thank You. When someone makes you food, you say Thank you. Taking the time to say Thanks shows we know God is our provider and we are grateful.


Why do we pray before bed? (Or anytime, for that matter?)

Prayer is a conversation with God. Just like we talk with you at the end of a long day and just like mommy and daddy need to talk to each other each day, we can talk to God about what’s on our mind. As people, we like to know what’s going on in each other’s lives and how we feel about it.

A bedtime prayer is a way to tell God how we feel about Him, say thank you, ask for forgiveness, and unload what happened during the day. Talk through those cares and worries and go to bed in peace.  


Why do we read our Bible?

Because this is how God speaks to us. Simply put, the Bible tells the story of who God is. We learn about Him through it. It’s one of His ways of communicating.


I want my kids to know there was a time I hardly ever read my Bible. It was a very hard time in my life – and I’m still not sure if that was the cause or the effect. I don’t want them growing up with a burden of guilt if they keep their Bible laying next to their bed or on a shelf for days, months, years on end—in a habit of disinterest and unbelief.


I want them to read their Bible because when they read and obey, it will transform their life. I want them to know the peace, joy, and purpose they can find through it.


Yes. I want my children to see me reading my Bible—to be a model for them as they grow. But I don’t want them thinking it’s just a good habit or a religious requirement. I don’t want my children thinking reading their Bible makes them a good person (any more than I want anyone to think it makes me a good person).  


I want them to see how I truly am getting to know God when I read the Bible. I able to understand who He is. His words are changing my heart and changing my behavior.


Why do we go to church?

We enjoy family days and family activities. Dedicating time to each other brings all of us closer. As you grow, we want to you to have great memories, rich history, and a deep understanding of one another.

The same is true of our church family. We are all there to worship our Father God and we grow closer to Him and closer to each other by being there together. We are not there out obligation, but because it’s family time.  

~ ~ ~


Some of us grew up knowing what to do, but never valued it because we didn’t know why. Others knew why but it still didn’t mean enough to us personally. In time, some of us simply found other things to do instead. 


We do go through times when church, prayer, reading is just done out of habit or routine. But just like the habits of eating, sleeping, and exercise are essential to our physical well being, the habit of being in God’s word and praying are essential to our spiritual well being.


I know the questions will get harder. But I hope my kids keep asking. Often, asking Why leads you right to the answers.




Sonya Spillmann


  1. This is great Sonya! I am going to print the answers out and repeat to my kids–lol. Love!

  2. I love that you asked the definition of the word. It erks me when people set something up, or name a thing, and don’t have a reason or even a THOUGHT behind it. “It’s just a place to take a break.” UGH. Then call it a break room!
    Although, now that I’m writing this it goes to show that caritas seeps its way into everything and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Even when we aren’t giving a thought or putting any effort forth. Like grace. 🙂

  3. Truth spoken so simply and clearly. Thank you…may those growing minds know and understand the whys behind the faith traditions your family practices.

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