After visiting with my grandparents and my husbands grandmother this weekend, my heart was filled with love, compassion and at the same time with shame. Love at how wise, how gentle, how strong, selfless and caring they are. Compassion at how their strength and memory has faded into at times confusion, helplessness and weakness. Shame in how I’ve often forgotten these precious people who have poured SO much into their families. Shame in how little credit I have given them for the hard work they’ve endured, for the godly values they’ve instilled into their children and grandchildren. And I felt remorse at how little help I’ve offered them throughout the years, when they needed it.
They’ve missed me. And I haven’t always been there.
But surprise was mixed into all the feelings above because when I sat down with them and shared moments reminiscing I had the realization that I desperately need them too. Perhaps even more than they need me. This revelation is what brought me to writing this open letter to the beautiful seniors that live among us.
We need you. A lot.
I need you. My eyes fill with tears as I write this.
I am a young Mother. I have the energy that you probably wish you still had. I am in good health, while yours may be starting to fail you. And I’m well aware that many days you just wish you could have the energy, clarity and youth that I still possess. You may be wondering what I could possibly need from you. Maybe you already know what you have to offer, but you have been so forgotten, so pushed to the side, that you no longer feel like anyone’s willing to listen.
If this is you, I’m so so sorry.
The very fact that I have to write this at all, speaks volumes on how much my generation has failed you.
How much I’ve failed you.
When you slowly lose the abilities to do the very things you trained your children to do, when your once strong back gives way, when your once sturdy hands begin to shake, it is then that we seemingly put you into a separate home, to be cared for by strangers and we forget you. I’ve forgotten you. And the sad thing is, that not only has this hurt you, it has hurt my generation as well.
Because we need each other.
Right now I am in the busiest season of my life: Parenting. Parenting, as you may remember, has it’s ups and downs. It is a beautiful season that flies by all too quickly, you tell me.
And I know you’re right.
I need to hear these reminders because you’ve been here too once, in my stage of life. You once were also swarmed by little children and endless tasks. And in your wisdom you whisper: Enjoy it. Soak it all in. It will soon be over.
You speak words like this to me and I need them, because although you have been in my stage of life, I have never been in yours. You understand what it’s like to see children leave your home, one by one. You understand what it’s like to look back and feel regrets. You understand, looking back, what was important and what wasn’t so important. You understand what makes a marriage last, and what damages one beyond repair. You understand that people are more important than things. You understand that money can’t buy you everything and everything one day fades away into nothing. And I need you to remind me of these things, because when you do, I take these words to heart.
It’s because of words such as these that when my fifth child was born, I wanted to enjoy every moment of his growing up. And at first, this was easy. But as time rolled on, he began to cry and cry. This was a very difficult time for me. He screamed everywhere I would bring him. For almost two years I was unable to meet with people and carry on a full conversation or even participate in a church service. As a result of being so isolated, I was becoming more and more worn down. I felt frazzled everywhere I went. But more than that, I felt alone. So very alone. Sometimes all I wanted was just someone to sit beside me during a service so I could feel like I was a part of the body of Christ as well.
That is, until Mr. Steve.
Many seniors come to a place where they realize that they do not have the energy they used to (even some middle aged folks feel this way). They feel that they are not as fun or as capable as the younger generation to do service, so silently they step back from ministry, feeling like they’ve “done their time” and that they are doing everyone a favour by staying out of the way.
But not Mr. Steve…this sweet older man stepped out and decided to volunteer in the kids ministry at church. And not in just any area either…he braved out the 3s room. That’s right. He was surrounded by approximately 50 toddlers EVERY Sunday morning.
Let me tell you about this kind, gentle man, who realized that his serving time was not “done” but that he had MUCH to offer these precious children.
Mr. Steve wasn’t as “fun” as many of the other helpers. He wasn’t quick on his feet, or as energetic. He had his own way of doing things. But when Emerson came in screaming Sunday after Sunday, Mr. Steve did something that changed everything for me. He gently took my boy, flailing limbs and all, and spent one on one time with him. Every Sunday He would patiently hold, talk to, and play with Emerson, until Emerson would settle down and me and my husband could go into the service. Pretty soon Emerson became Mr. Steve’s “boy”. They would play puzzles and trains together. Mr. Steve would bring his own puzzles from home to give to Emerson as gifts. They developed a very special connection. Mr. Steve didn’t talk much, but his consistent and quiet presence was just what Emerson needed.
Some people may shrug and say, “no big deal! It’s just babysitting!”
Ummm…No. It wasn’t just babysitting.
Mr. Steve’s act of service literally changed everything for our family. Emerson began to enjoy church. He began to see it as a place of warmth and love, not of discouragement and tears. Yes, he still cried most Sundays when we dropped him off, but he settled down quickly. And no matter how sad he felt when we dropped him off, he always had the biggest smile when we picked him up from kids church.
In my own life things changed as well. I could breathe again. Instead of struggling on my own trying to survive the lonely days, I felt refreshed. I was encouraged. I felt like I was a part of Christ’s body, rather than alone on an island. I was strengthened to become the Mother my children needed me to be. It was for only an hour and a half every week, but that little bit of time was all I needed. I was spiritually renewed and I came back able to pour into others (I now also help out in the 3s room)!
All because of one senior who cared.
Dear precious seniors: You MATTER.
Maybe you physically are unable to do something as ambitious as Mr. Steve…but there are LOTS of things you can still do. Because we need you. My children need you. I need you.
I need your wisdom, your advice about marriage, about faith, about the lessons you’ve learnt. Your knowledge and years of experience are like treasure, worth far more than money can buy.
My children need your friendship, your gentle touch, your patient care.
I need your encouragement and your prayers.
We need to see you and remember that life is short, that our busy days will too one day slow down, this reminder in itself brings wisdom and insight.
We need you to remind us that when all is said in done, the only thing that will matter to us is who’s lives we touched, not how fancy our house was, or how stylish our clothes were…not whether we could afford a brand new car or whether we drove an old clunker. None of those things will matter at all, rather one question will remain: Have I been faithful to do my best?
So please, PLEASE, don’t check out. Don’t see yourself as “past your time” or “inconvenient”. Don’t fade out of our lives. Keep calling to talk or to arrange visits. Forgive us when we seem like we’ve forgotten you in our busy schedules. Be patient with us if we forget to visit. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need you. In fact, quite the opposite, it probably means that we need you to remind us all the more to slow down and take time for the people in our lives. Because people like YOU change lives.
I know, because you changed mine.