Sunday, September 9, 2018

Caring for neighbours

Ruth and Naomi by Jan Victors, 1653 (Wikimedia Commons)
Joyce Sasse - “You will strop by and visit often,” my elderly neighbour implored as he got out of the car. “Don’t forget.”

The request was touching. We had come home from the picnic shortly after eating because he was feeling chilled, a bit confused, and quite stumbly. Both he and his wife were frightened.

The older we get, the more we do battle with the unseen ghosts of health … the more we are confronted by our physical vulnerabilities... the more we treasure the thoughtfulness and care expressed by others.

Understanding the loneliness and pain aging people face is something local people know about because our lives within the community are so intimately connected.

We remember back to the time when the woman in the wheelchair was “quick as a fox”, when the man with the dementia was a brilliant teacher, and when the exhausted care-giver brought food to our home in our time of bereavement.

Through their actions and their living story, these elders have passed on clues as to how each of us can bring blessings to others.

What I’ve learned from them has more to do with being there without fuss, but with consistency. It has to do with watching and listening, rather than with trying to give pat answers. And it has to do with helping each find his/her own course of action, rather than forcing a prescribed “solution”.

In the Biblical story, remember the companionship enjoyed by Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth? The two leaned on each other when all the men of the family died. When Naomi decided to move back to Bethlehem, Ruth (from the country of Moab) insisted she would return with the older woman. When Naomi was destitute, Ruth went out to work in the fields by way of finding a small source of “income”. Meanwhile, Naomi’s wisdom and experience brought blessing to Ruth’s life. 

The story of the way they supported each other, told over thousands of years, is instructive for every age... even to the present time.

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