The Gift of Time

Do you know how a certain verse can get stuck in your mind and stay there, replaying itself over and over again?  This passage from Matthew has done that to me a lot over the last few months.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

In Matthew 25: 31-46, Christ describes the judgment to his disciples.  Those who extended help to the hungry, thirsty, sick, poor, or imprisoned receive their inheritance with the King, but those who haven’t reached out to those in need are sent into eternal punishment.

Every day, while visiting my mother at the nursing home,  we wander the hallways, me pushing her wheelchair, or sit outside on nice days or on the screen porch if it’s not too hot.  It’s exhausting, but it’s rewarding to sit with Mom, even if we don’t say anything.  I take my iPad and play music that she enjoyed in her youth or sometimes I read to her from a book a friend of hers wrote.  Or we just sit together holding hands or talking about whatever memories I can conjure up.

You can’t spend much time at a nursing home without getting to know many of the other residents .  What saddens me is that I rarely see other family members visiting, even on the weekends.  Now you might think I just miss them, but I visit almost every day, sometimes twice, and usually for a few hours.  When I’m not there, my sister usually is.  We’ve both noted the lack of visitors.

So we talk to them.

One of my favorite’s is Evelyn who walks her wheelchair along the hallways.  She always has a smile for us and speaks as if we’re her best friends.  She has Alzheimer’s, but she still has a great sense of humor.  One day, after passing her several times on one of our strolls, she asked me if this was my mother.  I said yes.  “She’s looks so young,” she protested.

“How old do you think she is?” I asked.

“Sixty-five.”

I bent over and told my mom, “She thinks you’re sixty-five.  That’s pretty good, isn’t it?”     And it is since Mom is eighty-one. Then I  said to Evelyn, “How old do you think I am?”

She didn’t miss a beat.  She huffed a laugh and said, “A hundred!”

Yet, day after day, I never see anyone visit this dear, sweet lady.

Now, I do realize that not everyone lives in the same town as their parents’ nursing home, or that their work schedule is not as flexible as mine, so I try to brighten each resident’s day as I see them.  I speak and learn their names.  There’s nothing sweeter than being greeted by your own name.  Almost always, their faces will light up from the attention. It’s amazing how far a few moments of friendliness goes.  Sometimes we sit outside and talk with various ones or pass the time in front of the aviary.

I’m not writing this to shame those who can’t make daily visits to family members who are in nursing homes, but I do want others to consider this sad state of affairs.  After a lifetime, many of them spend day after day without a single visitor, or their family visits once a week, or month, due to the world’s busy schedule.  I’m proof that it doesn’t matter who is visiting them, they just appreciate the time.

So the next time you are trying to decide how to spend your evening or how to give back to your community, why not look into volunteering to visit a nursing home?  I doubt they will turn you away.

And if you do, one day, you may hear these words spoken to you:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

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2 thoughts on “The Gift of Time

  1. Oh, Barbara, it is so true, but, it isn’t just in nursing homes. Sad to say that even when they are not in a nursing home, people don’t visit their elders or neighbors like they did when we were growing up. It is a sad commentary on us, the next generation and those to follow. Since Uncle Bill moved, I have missed the Monday or Wednesday lunches that we shared. One of the saving graces, though, about him moving, is that I have gotten blessed by getting to spend more time with Uncle Wayne; be it by e-mail or by phone.

    Yes, everyone, if you find yourself watching boring re-runs or “renting” movies, etc., take the time to volunteer and give a little bit of yourself. You will be richly rewarded sooner or later.

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