“Mooooom, why do we have to go?” Once a week the kids and I would go to an assisted living home near our house and visit with the elderly people who lived there. Often times we played Bingo and then sat and talked. I wanted my kids to be comfortable around people of all ages. I wanted them to see the value in the people whom our society often forgets or discards. I wanted to teach service above self.
To be honest, there were days when it wasn’t convenient. Their excuses were often numerous. “Mom, I have a lot of homework.”
“Mom, I’m tired.”
“Mom, I’m hungry.”
There were days when I wanted to give in to their pleas and excuses. There were days when I was tired and mentally listing my own excuses to skip out. But I chose to be an adult (which is not always easy).
“We don’t ‘have to go.’ We get to go.” Maybe this response was as much for me as it was for them. I began praying out loud in the car, “Father, thank you for this opportunity to put others before ourselves. Thank you that we get to go and love on people.” Nothing like using prayer to lay on the mom guilt! The kids grew silent. Maybe they actually heard me and saw this as an opportunity to love but most likely they were just eye rolling in the backseat.
I don’t know if the kids learned anything from those moments with the mature but I did. I learned that not one of their stories included how they had paid off their houses early or how much money they had in their bank accounts. Not one mentioned how successful they had been in their careers. Not one mentioned how well-kept their yards had been.
I was reminded that the things that meant most were the memories created with family and friends. They told stories of family vacations, camping trips, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They told stories of their military service, of investing in something bigger than themselves. The years were erased from their faces as they laughed recalling the pranks they had played on friends so long ago.
I smile now as I remember each one. Ms. Margaret- a tiny lady made smaller by osteoporosis. Her back bent and her eyes blind. She shared the same birthday as my daughter. She always grabbed my daughter’s hands and told her how beautiful she was. Beautiful to the blind. Maybe that’s true beauty.
I will never forget Mr. Jackson, a former postman and war veteran, tall and thin with a big smile. My son liked listening to his military service stories. We were all drawn to his kind heart, wit, and wisdom.
I can still see Mrs. Sullivan, a former school teacher, unable to stand up straight yet still bright and funny with an easy laugh. Her young spirit trapped inside an old body. Joyful.
As each one shared, the years between us seemed to disappear. We are all just people who have been given the gift of life. People who are here one day and gone tomorrow. We are all just passing through. As morbid as it sounds, not one person will remember us 100 years from now. (How many of you can name all the US presidents? I sure can’t!)
I know people won’t remember my name but will they remember my love? Will my life leave a positive and lasting impact on those who have known me? Will that impact have a ripple effect on the next generation and the next and the next? Ms. Margaret, Mr. Jackson, Mrs. Sullivan you are not forgotten. Your life, your love, your wisdom and your kindness live on. You taught me about true beauty, proper priorities, and joyous living. May those ripples resound throughout eternity.