It’s welcome weekend at the college.  New freshman have moved in and the energy that abounds on campus is… well… energizing!  As part of our orientation activities, today we offered several service projects.  One opportunity was to make homemade stress balls out of un-inflated balloons filled with either rice or flour.  Some of the stress balls will be delivered to a local elementary school and others we delivered today to our local assisted living facility.

I volunteered to lead the visit to the assisted living facility.  When mom moved to Virginia last year, this was where she moved.  It lasted about two weeks, and then it was evident that she needed to live next door in the facility dedicated to those with dementia.

When the students and I entered to begin our visit (“meet and greet” games, discussing stress and how to use a stress ball, enjoying cookies), I realized that I recognized several of the residents from mom’s short stay last summer.  And they remembered me.  These ladies are probably in their 80s or even 90s.  They are frail, one carries oxygen.  Their posture and their bodies show their age, but their minds are amazingly clear.  I was amazed that they remembered me when I had only interacted with them briefly so long ago.

As we began our program, all of the residents sat on one side of the tables and all of the students on the other.  There was a clear “us” and “them” even though no one intended it.  Then we began to answer questions.  “Raise your hand if you’ve ever ridden motorcycle.”  Half of the older adults raised their hand.  Half of the students raised their hand.  There were sly smiles exchanged, and suddenly the “us” and “them” lines blurred.  Next question:  “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to Europe.”  Again, about half of the students and half of the older adults raised their hands.  Stories were exchanged about who had travelled where.  “Raise your hand if you’ve ever met a famous person.”  I told my “Jimmy Carter in the elevator” story.  An older adult told her “Reagan came so close I could touch him but I was told not to speak to him because we were on a military base and it was all business.”  A student shared her story, “This summer I shook hands with Justin Trudeau.”  All three stories had everyone listening and shaking our heads.

In the middle of our sharing, the staff next door where mom lives walked her over so that she could join in the program.  Many of the residents where mom lives can’t carry on a conversation.  Mom still loves to talk and visit, she just has a limited scope of topics to discuss and depth to which she can discuss them.  She was glad to join us but couldn’t understand what a “stress ball” was.  The residents of the assisted living home loved the stress balls.  They practiced the exercises that are useful with them.  Mom can’t do that.  Learning something new is too hard for her right now.  But she sat and smiled and loved the gathering.

The afternoon together was beautiful.  Stories were shared.  Names and hometowns were exchanged.  There was no “us and them” by the end of our visit.  Those who could learn something new learned it.  Everyone told their story.  Everyone listened.  A tray of cookies was passed around.  Some at the table are undoubtedly nearing the end of their earthly lives, mostly looking backward and remembering.  Others at the table are embarking on a new journey, beginning their college education.  They are full of promise and possibility, mostly looking forward.  But everyone was present.  No cell phones were out (I forgot to even take a photo) causing distractions.  No one was regretting the past or worrying about the future.  Everyone was simply present.

The schedule said we would be back on campus at 4:00 p.m.  I’m not sure when we left the parking lot, and we were probably only a half hour late, but it’s nice when an experience isn’t dictated by a schedule.  We were present at Hanover Manor this afternoon:  new college freshmen, older adults in assisted living, a middle aged chaplain, and a woman with dementia from next door.

Today’s event was not a religious event.  But today I caught a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.


One thought on “Today I caught a glimpse…

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