It’s Friday. I do not look forward to Friday mornings. (The word dread actually comes to mind, but that’s probably a little strong.) This feeling actually comes sometime Thursday night sometime. I used to really like our Friday mornings. On Fridays we have pancakes, which my children look forward to all week. We like the pancakes. That’s not what I dread. It’s when 10:30 rolls around, and it’s time for us to walk to the nursing home that sits in our neighborhood. And I don’t really want to go. I’m not proud of this admission, but it’s true.
Let me back up. A few weeks ago after dinner we learned the memory verse “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” As we memorize verses with our children, we talk a lot about how it’s not important just to hide God’s Word in our hearts, it is important to obey His Word.
So I was definitely convicted on that one. What was I doing with my little ones to show them the importance of that? What were we doing to OBEY that Word? And I came up with absolutely nothing. Sure, we have a few non-believing friends in our lives, and yes, we do pray for them with our children, but what else could we be doing?
Instantly I thought of the nursing home in our neighborhood. Mind you, I have had this thought before: once- a couple of years ago, I even called them to ask about coming up with my then one child to visit the elderly and I was told in no uncertain terms that there was a process to this kind of thing. I would have to wait, first, until the activity director got back from vacation and then I would have to come in and fill out some paperwork and get checked out. Then, if I was ‘okayed’, they would call me to determine a time. At the time I thought, “I’m not applying to manage the facility, for crying out loud, I just want to visit from time to time!” And here I thought they’d be delighted to get my call. Needless to say, I didn’t call again, nor did I stop in to fill out any paperwork.
So a few weeks ago when I had this thought, it was not a welcome one, it was practically accompanied by a groan. Nonetheless, I decided to give it another go. I told my husband my thought, he thought it was a great idea. The next morning I prepped my children: “Today we’re going to go to a nursing home. It’s a place where lots of great-grandpas and great-grandmas live. Some of them are very lonely and no one visits them. Some of them don’t know Jesus. And we’re going to go talk with them and hopefully get the opportunity to tell them about Jesus.” And as wonderful as my children are, they were delighted and acted like this was the most normal thing in the world. My son chattered all morning about going to “great-grandpa’s house”.
We set out for our short walk to the nursing home, and on the way there we prayed together that God would use us to bless these people we were about to see. And while I wouldn’t say I was excited, I was definitely expectant and happy to be doing this with my sweet children. When we got inside, I quickly located the person-to-talk to and waited patiently for her to look up at us since she was reading over a file or chart. I waited a little longer than I was comfortable with, so I took a step forward. She then said, “Is anyone helping you?” What I thought was, “Um. No. Apparently you didn’t notice that we just walked in the door and came straight here and have been waiting ever since for YOU to help us.” What I said was, “No. Not yet.” So she said, annoyed-like: “Well, what do you need?” I explained, gesturing to my children, that we lived in the neighborhood and would like to visit with some of the residents. She said, “Oh. You need to talk to the blonde lady in there” and sort of waved behind her towards another room. I was sort of stunned at her welcome. And at that point I considered turning around to walk right back OUT the door, but thought better of it and proceeded in the general direction of her wave. Any happy feelings I had had about this venture had disappeared.
As we walked into the room, searching for a blonde lady (whom I figured shouldn’t really be too difficult to locate), I spotted her, noting on her name tag that she was the activities director. She was in the process of wheeling a woman up to a table. She looked up at us, with a you-are-an-imposition expression, and said, “Are you looking for someone?” And I again explained our desire to visit. She said, “I don’t know about that. I’ll have to go check.” And as we walked further into the room she moved past us and out of the room, presumably to “go check”. I’m not sure who or what she was checking. My goodness! Can one not visit people in a nursing home anymore?!
About 5 minutes later she reappeared. By this time some other woman had asked us to go sit at the edge of the room and wait. Miss Activities-Director walked up to us, awkwardly pulled out a chair, and said something about “due to the circumstances”, with a vague wave at my children (I had no idea what she was talking about. What “circumstances”? But I tell you, they sure do like to wave at this place.)- and something about health concerns. She finally said we may visit but only when she herself was there and only in this particular room. We could not go to anyone’s individual room or visit with anyone outside of this room. I said, “Great, thank you”, and we discussed the best time. I was still befuddled about the ‘circumstances’, until I pondered this later and realized that she was probably concerned that my children were going to pass viruses to the elderly. A valid point, I get that, but still. We’re not going to come if they are vomiting or feverish. Or even if they have bad colds.
So then I asked, “Can we visit today?” And she said sure and waved again in the direction of the men and women who had been wheeled up to the tables in what I’d figured by this time was the Activity Room. So off we went, me holding my 11-month old, holding my two-year old by the hand and asking my four-year old to follow us. We squatted beside an elderly man, found out his name was James, and spoke with him for a few minutes about our local-ish major league baseball team and my boys: he was quick to point out my youngest son should have a baseball hat in support for the team. We then met a sweet woman named Hazel. On the other side of her, a sweet woman wearing more make-up than I’ve ever worn in my life, and with her nails brightly polished! named Jane. Then around to Margaret, who was beautiful and sweet-I reached for her hand as we spoke and she held onto it. Then it was time for us to leave for lunch.
I was perturbed as we walked home at the reception we’d received from the staff. It made me irritable throughout the day as I relayed the events first to my husband, then to a friend on the phone, then the following morning to my mom. And yet I had to keep coming back to this: I was not doing this to please man. (Although, really, a wee bit of gratitude would have been appreciated.) We did this because we love God, because I wanted to lead my children in obeying His Word, because “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” That’s why. Because regardless of what others may think or say or do, I want to live such a way that I am pleasing to God, that I bring glory to Him. I want to love James, Hazel, Jane, Margaret, and Alice (who we met the following week) as my God does.
If you spent a bit of time in our home, you would probably hear me say to one of my children, “How does God want us to obey?” And they would respond, “Right away, all the way, and with a happy heart!” (*I wish I could take credit for this one, but I can’t. I found this phrase in Ginger Plowman’s book, Don’t Make Me Count to Three).
Time to work on my own happy heart.