Learning From Seniors
Learning From Seniors
…even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
Everything I needed to know about our country I learned from working with seniors! Top Ten lists have become popular due to Dave Letterman. Please find below my top six list of things (sorry not ten) I learned from seniors about our country as I served them as their pastor in various retirement communities.
Top 6 Wisdom about our country from the Greatest Generation
The Greatest Generation has much wisdom to teach all of us – it has been a privilege for me to walk among them and learn from them.
- America is a land of immigrants – People have migrated from all over the world to find a better life here in America. I had a resident with whom I worked at one retirement community who was originally from Poland. Due to dementia, she no longer remembered the English she learned in her adult life. She spoke entirely in Polish. However, in spite of the loss of her English skills, she clearly communicated her love and care for those around her. Fortunately, we had a staff member who was able to visit with her in Polish!
- America is a land of opportunity, even for those who had been considered “enemies.” Another resident,Helga, lived in Germany during WWII. She emigrated here following the war. She raised her family and prospered here. The same was true of Helmut who flew with the Luftwaffe in World War II. He said to me once, “I don’t attend the veterans programs, here.”
- America is a land of people who try to do the right thing in the face of injustice. My visit with a Japanese-American elder revealed that she and her family migrated from Washington State to Illinois in order to avoid the relocation camps of WWII. The “Anglo” family who lived next to them in Washington took care of their home and property until they were able to return following the disbanding of the relocation camps.
- America is a land of people who care about the “least of these.” Jesus says in Matthew 25:37-40: 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’ Miriam was one of our Assisted Living residents. To the day she died she considered herself a FDR New Deal Democrat. She supported government programs that give struggling people a hand up – including work programs for the unemployed and Social Security for seniors so they didn’t have to go the poor houses (that truly existed in the 1930’s). Of the younger generations she said, “They just don’t understand what it was like before.” Meaning my generation did not understand how hard life had been before these programs, such as social security, existed.
- America is a land of people who sacrifice themselves for freedom. The Greatest Generation fought the most powerful armies in the world. One resident, Harry, served on the front lines in D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. Another resident, Isabelle, volunteered to serve in the Navy. About her service in the WAVES she said, “We cracked the Japanese code.”
- America is a land of Americans. People of various races, cultures, backgrounds who enjoy the privileges and participate in the responsibilities of democracy. Elders, youth, or middle aged, ill health or well, we all have a shared purpose and goal: to be the best Americans we can be through lending a hand to one another. May we continue to learn from the Greatest Generation, before it becomes too late!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to understand that you have much wisdom for us through the seniors in our lives. Empower us to reach out to seniors in retirement communities, especially those who are part of our churches, so that they know they continue to produce fruit. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Reverend Kathy Bird DeYoung