One day a year or so ago, my 11-year-old daughter Elle and her friend were bored.
They had baked cookies, had a lemonade stand and had taken some good bike rides around the neighborhood. But it was a long day and new ideas for fun were coming on quite sluggishly.
I gave her all the regular suggestions: “How about you guys help me make dinner?” was greeted with a glum face, and then “How about you guys write up some imaginative story?” was greeted with the same blank stare.
Then I thought of Nancy: the sweetest lady ever who I met through our church and who has MS. She lives in a care home right in our neighborhood and loves to have visitors. She is one inspirational lady. She can’t move and can only talk very softly, yet each time I visit I feel uplifted and inspired by her words. She is one of the kindest, most optimistic people I know.
I had taken my girls to visit Nancy before, and although they were curious, they hung back in the shadows while we talked and as I fed her one of the cookies we had brought.
“How about you go visit Nancy?” I suggested. I fully thought the girls would turn their noses up at my latest suggestion, especially since I was in the middle of something or other and couldn’t go with them. But their ears perked up. They were intrigued.
Before I knew it they had packed up a little treat, tucked the “Friend” magazine into one of their bike baskets and they were off to Nancy’s care home…by themselves.
They came back looking how I remembered feeling after visiting Nancy. Radiating and excited.
After that they made a tradition of visiting Nancy each Sunday after church. They’ve done it for over a year now. They go over there and read her stories and bring her goodies. Once they bought her a journal and every so often they ask if she wants to dictate something for them to write in there for her. They have gathered additional friends and often bring one or two of their little siblings.
Now their friends at the care center include all the residents. They tell stories about each of them all the time and act like it’s just as normal as can be that a handful of girls would go spend much of their time visiting people in such a different stage than they are themselves. (I wish you could see the cutest little man whose feet are visible on the right…he just sits in his lazyboy and sleeps with his cheeks spreading out on his shoulders…I have a little crush on him).
I know we’re not supposed to be “proud” but I am. I’m so thankful for this girl of mine and her conscientious and thoughtful friends, and that they know the joy of giving part of themselves…and that when they give they get back more than they could ever ask for.
And I’m so thankful for Nancy who is optimistic and kind and good even when she has every reason to be bitter, and who’s beautiful spirit shines through each time we see her.
QUESTION: Do you know of a nursing home or care home near you? Do you have any elderly people who live in your neighborhood? Who do you know that might enjoy a visit from you and your kids?
Challenge: If you can’t think of anyone, ask around and chances are someone you know knows someone who is lonely and open to visits from a new set of pseudo “grandkids.” Visit on your own first to get to know the person a little and make sure the situation would be a pretty good one for your kids. Then take the kids (kids over 5 can generally do best with this sort of thing but every situation is different). Prepare them first by explaining the person’s situation and limitations (if any). Help your children prepare some questions they could ask the person you’ll be visiting and be ready with some questions of your own to move things along. Even a short visit once a month or so can make such a difference to those who need you!