Let me start off with a Scripture verse:
“You must rise in the presence of an old person and respect the elderly. You must fear your God; I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).
This verse made me remember something from a long time ago.
I’m not sure it was a matter of “respect” when I showed up at a nursing home nearly 35 years ago, ready to sing Christmas carols and hand out cookies. I was there with a church group. This was a “good deed” we were doing. But I remember feeling out of place that Sunday afternoon. In our culture we know that, as much as we’re all children of God, there are differences. We categorize persons by race and creed and social class. And, for 10-year-old me, the elderly in the nursing home were about as “other” as I could imagine.
So, we sang. We handed out our cookies. And we left. Job done.
But… there was one elder with whom our family struck up a conversation. And the conversation turned into the telling of stories and the stories turned into more visits. It’s been a long time. I confess I don’t remember his name. But I know that this one relationship started tearing down the walls that, at least in my child-like mind, divided us. We were more alike than I realized. Perhaps in his head he still felt like a young man just with an old man’s body. And, for me, perhaps I gained some sense that the path that lay in front of me would not be that different than his and that, God willing, I too would have stories to tell.
Why am I remembering my awkward 10-year-old self at this point? I think there are a couple of reasons.
Personally, I have reached the stage in life where my own parents–and the parents of friends–are aging. If they are not “elderly” yet, they are approaching it. I am left to discern how it is that I need to “rise” in their presence and “respect” them. I need to honor them.
But this also hits me as I participate in our community. We we are exploring the feasibility of a Volunteer Hospice organization for the Seward and Moose Pass areas. This would be a way for us to improve the quality of life for those who are seriously or terminally ill. While not just for “elderly,” this would be a big part of the work. And such work is in line with a faith that teaches us that all persons are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that Christ cares for all persons (Matthew 25:31-46).
You too can respect the elderly. If you’d like to help with Hospice, contact SeaView Community Services (224-5257). Otherwise, try to find ways to bless and support the elderly in your family or community.