I remember becoming aware of ‘old folk’, not related by blood or marriage, with our elderly neighbor, Lil Bone. She lived down from us on the left, as you faced the road.
While I’d been to her house with family members on occasion, I’d never visited her alone until early one evening. We’d worn a path between her house and ours, some visiting her but mostly exploring the thickly timbered woods and shrub which made up most of our play environment and the area except for houses and fields carved out from it.
Up above the lower land we and our neighbors lived on, ran a small two lane road. It allowed transportation from one place to another, especially town, and it was where we ran to catch the school bus, which waited patiently as we fought the incline, legs pumping and mouth blowing plumes of frosty air, all the while envisioning being left behind.
I was nine years old and she seemed almost ancient to me. I came from a large family and one early October evening, while my mother was busy with our household, I decided it was time to visit Lil Bone. It was dark out and I shivered as I followed the path which went to her house, stamped into my memory. I was halfway there when I began thinking about my mother’s remark that she’d heard a black panther scream a few nights before. Fear settled into me as I tried to remember all the warnings about the vicious cat. I moved as far from the trees as possible, avoiding overhanging limbs as I hurried forward.
I arrived at her house and pecked on the door, anxious for her to answer. She soon did, telling me “Come in Patricia, it’s too cold for you out there.” I followed her into the kitchen and she asked if I’d like a cookie, a smile on her face. If my eyes matched my desire they must have been the size of saucers. I looked up into her sensitive, patient face and it seemed the wisdom I was searching for resided there as she stared back, handing me that cookie.
She was the first old person to touch my heart and prick the desire for knowledge that lay within me. The wisdom that can only be gleaned by someone who has lived many years tempered with the strength received from the pain of giving up those things in life that come only from God. A biological family, youth, then spouse, children. We talked and one thing she impressed on me was the danger of being out in the woods alone at night. My brother came looking for me and when we got home I had plenty of explaining to do, but my mother was lenient with my scolding when I think back on it.
I grew into adulthood being drawn to older people, some so tired and broken in their bodies that they could hardly help themselves. On holidays when I cooked special meals for my family, we waited until the oldest child delivered every plate I made up before starting our own dinner. I didn’t mind this because they had something so much more important to give back. I received accurate guidance and knowledge several times on which way to go when I came to important decisions and crossroads in my life.
I have also found that when I get to know someone, whether in their home or at a convalescent center, there are many precious rewards to be gained from this during future visits. All people have worth and meaning and I’ve discovered for myself God didn’t create any ‘nobodies’. There are opportunities for each and every one of us to enrich our lives by enriching the lives of a person who is waiting to meet us.
If you don’t have a personal ministry in your life consider going to your nearest convalescent center and ask to meet and spend time with someone who doesn’t have a relative or friend to visit.
This is also an excellent place to work on winning a soul for the Lord, someone who you could see again some future day.