Getting to Know You
Being at Mountair has made me continue to contemplate the place of the elderly in Christianity. As I have gotten to know more and more people at the end of life I have gained an ever increasing respect for them and the vast amount I can learn just by being with them and listening. For instance, today I was with a man in a nursing home who had lost his wife of 61 years. He is a quiet, strong, and not openly emotional man. Today, as a tear ran down his cheek he said, “You know, when you’re with someone that long you become one person. When they’re gone, part of you is gone.” This probably doesn’t sound profound, but what impacted me was how you could see the depth of his statement in his eyes. He reinforced my call to my marriage as he talked about losing his wife and what that meant.
As I interact with younger people I often get the feeling that the elderly are seen as either unimportant, scary, or a little bit of both. Recently a friend of mine said, “there are two kinds of old people–angry and confused.” He went on to talk about how this is funny–especially when they struggle to remember what happened five minutes ago. In the past I think I would have joined in the heckling, but now that I know people like that personally it seemed rude and insensitive. One of the things the church badly needs is both young and old who will get to know each other instead of caricaturing each other. There is a fear that exists between the young and the old based mostly on ignorance. The church is not a place for that–in fact, we can be a people who set a positive example of how the young and old can interact respectfully and lovingly. But it’s going to take getting to know each other.