Sunday, August 16, 2009

Golden Oldies

Today at the nursing home, I was horrified and I was amazed. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't as if I saw some terrible accident or saw someone come to Christ. No, that would be off-the-scale on horrifying and amazing. Nah. It was just the spirit of the place and the unclean feel that really got to me today. The spirit was one of confusion, dullness, and stupor. And the uncleanness only started with the drifting smells. It extended to the prevalence and prominence of the TV set.

It was enough to cause me to rethink the hours I've spent this summer glued to a TV screen. I asked a bright, chipper lady named Doris whether she had any hobbies. ("After all," I reasoned, "if anyone does, this lady does!"). But no. Her hobby was "watching the television set." And that's what my hobby has become. The more I watch TV, the less I even think about occupying my hands or head while I watch it. And it's got to stop.

At the nursing home, the TV is the great pasttime. We were literally pulling people away from the set to go watch TV. In a lot of ways, my time in the nursing home is a strange parody of my life. It always presents the question "Do I want to be like this when I'm this age?" If not, then I've got to change my trajectory. Here's the result! The excuses the residents give me as to why they can't come to church are so pitiful I'm embarrassed for them. But then, how do my excuses sound? "Uh, no, God, I can't read the Bible today, 'cause I'm tired." "Hannah, you're planning on watching a 1.5-hr. movie. And you're too busy to spend 10 minutes with me?" "God, you have a point. I'll do it after the movie." "When you fall over from exhaustion?" "Okay, God, I'll read if while I watch the movie." "Yeah, sure."

Escapism, in general, looks especially vapid now. When I asked one lady if she'd like to come to church, she announced in a resolute voice that she was deaf, and that she was going to go "far, far away from here." When I asked her where, she said she didn't remember, but her granddaughter had written it down and she could go and look it up. Another woman, in answer to the same question, shook her fist and told me she was "so mad she could just pop!" She had just gone to one end of the hallway and some guy had made her mad by telling her she should have gone the other way. So that's what she was doing now. She had to go find it. I didn't know what "it" was, but I told her that I sure hoped she could find it. She thanked me heartily, and the conversation was over.

If I could just learn from these women now, I would see that always wishing I was in another place or blaming my anger on other people aren't going to get me anywhere!

In contrast to these semi-weird happenings, there were the amazing moments. I had thought that most of the residents we wheeled into the Chapel were pretty out-of-it. But this was the first Sunday I got to help them turn the pages to the songs. And I learned that more than half the residents could find it with no help from me at all! Some were even helping others find the page! One one-legged resident who mostly mumbled suprised me the most by having her page open to the right song within 30 seconds of us announcing the number. Irene, who sat next to her, said simply "Oh, I found it for her."

One lady sat pretty listessly in her chair, with her book opened, but not turning pages. I flipped to the right page and tried to move her thumb to hold the page open, but no dice. I think she thought I wanted the book, so she eventually moved her hand away. I carefully moved her hand back, and when I felt her hand, I was so afraid I would damage it if i wasn't careful. It was the softest skin. But it felt so thin! It was warm, squishy, and absolutely relaxed. I had to give up, but when I got back to the piano, she caught my eye. I smiled at her, and she smiled back the most beautiful, peaceful smile. What a gift that was!

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