Ed, my neighbor next door, says he has no patience for listening to what he has heard before. Ed is a talker and it has to be some earth-shaking news to get him to listen to someone else. Ed says that the trouble with church is too much listening to the same old Biblical accounts, instead of everybody swapping their own fresh stories and having a good chat together. I tried to tell Ed that you can do that before and after the church service, but Ed says he is not one to come early and stay late unless it’s for a party or a hockey game. I also mentioned that bible study is a great place for discussion and the sharing of personal experiences. “I have as much eagerness for bible study as for having my teeth drilled,” Ed informed me. Sadly, Ed may be speaking for a lot of folks. It is hard for many people to listen to God’s word willingly and eagerly and, likewise, it may be difficult to listen to senior friends and family members.
It has been said that the test of a friendship is the willingness to listen. It would seem we all need someone that will listen to us. Listening is much harder to do than talking. Ed has a good friend in a nursing home who just longs for those who will listen to him. Ed gets impatient and skips visiting. Giving a friend a chance to talk and share his or her life is a hard gift to give, especially if you do it attentively, with understanding, discernment and compassion. If an elderly friend tells us the same thing over and over, it doesn’t matter that we’ve heard it before. Our ears can deal with repeats effortlessly. It is our patience that needs to be developed as we hear the same thing again and again.
When we are happy, how much greater our joy if we can share it with others who will listen to us. There is no pleasure when there is no one to listen to us. When we visit the elderly, we often fail to do so with awareness. We are at the advantage – we can see, hear, walk, talk and come and go freely. We are not the ones with eyesight that is blurred, steps that are unsteady or limited, hands that tremble or shake, captive to times in our thinking that spawn alarm by confusion or fear. Those living at a nursing home know the hard truth – no one gets out alive. Death can happen anywhere, but it will happen at a nursing home and it will happen often. We leave a nursing home and go home leaving behind the reality that death walks the halls there regularly. Life for the aged is not for sissies.
The Bible speaks of the need for us to have the right attitude to those who are aged or elderly. It instructs us to “rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. Listen to the father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Honor your father and mother (whatever their age).” The elderly are asked to wait patiently for the Lord to act in their life, when time and loneliness can be a heavy burden upon them. May we listen to them patiently and lovingly, even if they have told us it all before.