As I was reading (finally!) the chapter for this week from Karen Ehman's newest book "Listen, Love, Repeat", I was reminded of a sweet elderly lady we met a few years ago.
Karen tells us of this curmudgeonly old neighbor of hers that was, well, pretty mean. He chased animals. He yelled at kids. But she made the conscious effort to find out more. To try and get to know him. And after a few months, he waved back. No smile. No words. Just a wave. And she was victorious. Later on, she found out that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
Well, this man reminds me a little of my Ida. We used to go visit my GGPa every Wednesday morning at the seniors' home in town. And my kids would play downstairs in their coffee area, where everyone say waiting for lunch. I don't know how many of you have ever been in a care home for the elderly, but they always have a gathering place, often in a little coffee room. Some people go down there with their companions, so chat and pass the time. Some just sit at a table by themselves looking lonely and forlorn. Ida used to sit just outside, on a loveseat. Often, she'd be asleep, or just watching everyone else. GGpa used to wait in the doorway for us. Others sat on their walkers, or by the fireplace.
It was such a precious time for me as I look back on it. It gave my precious littles the ability to see people, not disabilities. They never really seemed to notice the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. Or grumpiness.
Both of my kids (I only had 2 littles at the time), LOVED to share with Ida. Whether they had brought something for their own version of show and tell, or they just wanted to chat, they always chose Ida as their companion. And Ida HATED it. She would push them off. She would tell them she wasn't interested. She ignored them. But they kept coming back, week after week. They would climb up on that loveseat beside her and love. I always thought that maybe she sat on a loveseat rather than a chair because somewhere deep inside, she wanted someone to sit beside her.
Little by little I began to find out more about her. She did not have an easy childhood, with war and famine everywhere. She was originally from Poland and had immigrated here for a better life. If I remember correctly, she used to be a camp cook. She was a survivor of many difficulties. Things we probably won't ever have to go through. After her husband passed, her children had placed her into a home. We understand that after she arrived, she had very few visitors. Personally, after visiting weekly for almost 5 years, I had never heard anyone mention she had visitors. Not once.
I think I might be a little angry at the world if that happened to me too!
Her children may have given up on her, but my kids sure wouldn't. And after about 1 year, she began to let them sit there. This time, without a scowl on her face. And about a month after that, she would watch the kids and listen to their stories.
One day, when we walked in, she waved. And smiled. Ohmygoodness. I almost cried.
I remember the day she waved clearly. I came home that day so proud that we had worn her down. She was starting to like my kids. I mean, who wouldn't? My kids are adorable. ;) I came home and told my husband at lunch what had happened. I was glowing all that day. Because I had someone smile at me. If someone doesn't have a smile, give them yours, right?
After that, if GGPa hadn't made it downstairs yet, or if he'd gone back up to his room, she let us know.
She started to hold the kids hands when they sat and talked to her.
Karen reminds of us this old saying, "Preach the gospel always. When necessary, use words." I hadn't actually heard that particular saying before, but it certainly us beautiful, isn't it? My kids didn't have "gospel" words. They were 3 and 1 when we first started going. They certainly had a lot of words, or noises. But their actions spoke volumes. Their love shined through.
And if we had never invested that time? If we hadn't shown interest and respect? I can't say that we changed her life, but she sure changed ours.
We are all a work in progress, learning more about ourselves, and those around us each day. Could we make it a mission to soften our edges, and maybe invest in others too? Could we shine the light within us as a beacon to those that are lost, lonely and hurting?
Heavenly Father, we thank you for all we have. That we have what we do now because of those that came before us. That went through harrowing times and just kept going. Thank you for the gift of knowledge and experience in those around us Lord. I pray that you would open our hearts to them. That we would be open to seeing past the exterior and discovering the wealth they have to offer Lord. I ask that on those days where my exterior is prickly, that you would fill me to overflowing with your love, to lighten all those dark places. We pray for the world, that we would make it part of our daily lives to see the people we interact with every day for who they are inside, not their reactions that day. Help us to be examples of Your unconditional love Lord, to those who need it the most. In Your name we pray. Amen.
If you have someone if your life that you are trying to "crack open", I would love to lift them up in prayer. Leave a comment and I will make sure to include them tonight.