I taught/preached in a nursing home for about two and a half years. I was invited to bring the Sunday service, because they couldn’t keep a college student or find anyone else. Fine self-esteem booster, right? Let me explain. The college students didn’t want to be responsible for showing up every Sunday morning when they could be either going home or sleeping in. There wasn’t enough prestige (or money) for most preacher guys to regularly go to a retirement place. So someone called the college where I was attending (I was in the ministerial department) and got my name as a possible candidate. My “pulpit committee” was two precious women residents who sat with their Bibles in their laps, a serious look on their faces, and said they didn’t want to hear a bunch of “talk.” They just wanted to hear the Bible read. They almost intimidated me.
After I got through with my sermon, I told them I knew some wouldn’t want a woman preaching, but if they would accept me, I would do the best I could for them. Afterwards, no one called to let me know I was rejected, so I went back the flowing Sunday. And the next and the next. I grew to love those two women, and many more who stole my heart. The men never really warmed up to me, but a few came. A former professor (and his wife) attended as a resident. Now that really did intimidate me for I knew he was very learned, but he was gracious about any blunders I might have made.
The biggest challenge at first was what to talk about. I had several denominations sitting in front of me, so the advice of just teaching the Bible was valuable. As I got to know them, I grew to appreciate their bravery and their concerns at that point of their lives. It takes a brave person to have their worldly possessions sold or given away so they can live in a small room with another resident. Talk about downsizing! Talk about getting along with your neighbor!
Can you imagine needing to get along with all kinds of people every day? Some of which are a little (not there, shall I say?) and might end up in your room by accident? There was one woman who astonished me at her compassion, kindness, ability to get along with everyone, and amazingly, she never complained. She said she figured it wouldn’t do any good, for herself included. I immediately asked God to help me be like her some day.
The sermons that I felt touched everyone the most was when I talked about the Golden Years, the years when one does not have to work, keep a house, raise a family. The present time is when a person could pray for the world, pray for their families, pray for each other. I explained how a Catholic saint helped change the course of World War 11 with her persistent prayers. This age is when they are more spiritually valuable than ever. There is never a time when God stops using us, as long as we have breath in our bodies. This is when we can be a voice of wisdom and reason for our families.
A continual sadness for me was getting to know someone, watch them slip slowly away, and then I would see the angel statue on the nurses station. That meant that someone died. I don’t go there anymore, but I am blessed with knowing them and learning about courage from them.