Yesterday, we had our monthly visit to to a nearby Senior Center with some of our homeschooling friends. I was so thrilled that we had more families join us than we’ve had in months past. Over the course of the last year, attendance had been slowly dropping and we even had to cancel a few times because we didn’t have enough children. I know that visiting with seniors can sometimes be difficult. It can be hard to look at the ways that old age affects a person. When we see minds and bodies withering, we sometimes start to think about our own future. However, the Bible tells us that we are to look after orphans and widows in their distress. I have seen wrinkled faces light up joy when we bring our gaggle of children into the room. It is a wonderful thing!
As we arrived at the center, we were told by the Recreation Coordinator that one woman had been yearning to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to a group of kids, so that was our first mission.
Even though this woman read very s-l-o-w-l-y and the ten minute book dragged on to 25 minutes, I was amazed to see all of the children sitting quietly and listening intently. If you knew my Luna, you would have thought it was a miracle to see her sit still for so long, even as the aids were bringing out cookies to the tables behind them. It was as if the children, in their hearts, understood how very important this was to the woman.
At one point during the story, I walked around the room to quietly talk with some of the residents that were being brought in for cookie decorating. As I knelt down next the wheelchair of one woman, I noticed that her eyes were damp. “I’m so glad the children are here,” she told me. “I miss children.” At that point, the tears really started coming as she told me that she couldn’t go to the bathroom by herself anymore. She couldn’t just make a cup of coffee for herself when she wants it anymore. I didn’t know what to tell her, so I just held her hand as she told me of her sorrows. Yes, it was hard, it broke my heart. It is the part of visiting the elderly that takes strength. They are lonely. They miss the things of their younger years. They have failing minds and bodies. But, we can hold hands and listen. We can bring company, we can chat, and we can bring smiles, too.
After the story was finished, it was time to decorate cookies! There was laughing and frosting-smiles, visiting and sprinkles. The woman who was crying to me, was happily pouring a thick coating of sprinkles on her cookie. Then, the aids brought out chocolate, in honor of Dip Things in Chocolate day. (Who knew?)
After everyone was sufficiently hyped up on sugar, the kids started handing out their hand-made Christmas cards. Cue the tears of joy. It was lovely to see the elderly women as they were given a card, their faces radiated with thankful joy.
Before we left, Kaya had a couple of extra cards to hand out, so we walked the halls of the center looking for recipients. Our very last card was given to Miss Gina, a woman we had met on a previous visit. She is a sweet little Italian woman who has forgotten the English she once knew. Kaya and Luna walked up to her and handed her a card with a, “Merry Christmas!” said in unison. I will never forget Miss Gina’s reaction. In fact, I am tearing up just thinking about it. She burst into tears and started babbling on in Italian. I didn’t understand her words beyond, “Awwww!”, but I knew just what she was saying. She had the look that a Mother gets the first time their child says, “I love you.” Or when you are graced with a bouquet of hand-picked dandelions. Tears of joy, tears of gratitude…. Love.
If you have a nursing home nearby, call and ask about visiting sometime. You can bring some love and joy with just an hour of your time.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27