Honoring The Journey

By Kari Snyder

“Show respect to the aged; honor the presence of an elder….” – Leviticus 19:32, The Message

We interact with people every day. And the more life we’ve lived, the more interactions we’ve experienced. I have the good fortunate as the Senior Adult Program Coordinator at Prince of Peace to be able to spend time with people who have decades upon decades of life experiences. I’ve discovered that by sitting down and listening–I mean really listening–you can soak up amazing history and wisdom. Things that some people may deem “ordinary” but we can see as extraordinary…things that can shape our own journey.

A few years ago, I sat down at a nearby senior facility to chat with a man in his nineties. I hadn’t spent any time with him before and had heard he was a quiet, shy person. So, there we were, in comfy chairs in the living room of the facility and I asked what he liked to do. He said he used to enjoy playing trombone. We had a nice conversation about playing in bands, as I enjoyed doing that as well. Then I inquired what sort of job he had before he retired. He smiled and said he was a food scientist for General Mills. A sweet grin crossed over his face and he said, “You ever heard of Cheerios?” Yep. I had just met the man who helped invent Cheerios. This gentleman had contributed to my happiness by filling my cereal bowl nearly every morning.

Taking time to listen has made a remarkable difference in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with someone who wrote advertising jingles for the radio in the 1950’s (when that was how much of advertising was done) and had golfed with Bob Hope. Well before we had cell phones and even rotary dial phones, a switchboard operator connected you with your party. One of our local seniors had that job and she can explain in great detail how she physically had to swap phone lines at a rapid pace to connect friends and families. And then there is the gentleman who spent time in one of our small groups at church. He had been on the USS Indianapolis during World War II when it sank. He was one of 317 to survive three days at sea in shark infested waters. His story, quietly and seriously retold, impacted me. Yes, taking time to listen has helped me appreciate what older generations have done for all of us.

As we age, we don’t stop making a difference in people’s lives. We need to recognize the contributions that older adults continue to make. Al, a senior adult and member of Prince of Peace, is a friend of mine. A former engineer, he has a love for woodworking. Though he doesn’t have a woodshop at home anymore, he utilizes the bigger machinery here at church to craft a ministry he’s been doing for a few years. He makes prayer crosses. One by one, block by block, he cuts out, shapes, files, sands, varnishes, sands, varnishes, sands and then adds a final layer of varnish to small wooden crosses. He uses people’s scrap lumber and turns it in to beautiful crosses that fit perfectly in to the palm of your hand. After he finishes a batch of twenty or thirty, he delivers them to me. And why does he do this? Because he knows this can be a tangible reminder of God’s love and comfort, especially for those dealing with challenging situations. Our lay ministers, Love Your Neighbor volunteers, student ministry leaders and countless people in Bible studies, care facilities, and hospitals have been the recipients of Al’s handiwork. Over 1,000 crosses have graced my desk and turned around to go out in to our community. This is part of Al’s legacy and story. A simple concept with an enormous impact, and you’d probably never know it if you didn’t take the time to ask him about it.

Sharing life experiences like this with younger generations bring insight, hope, and appreciation for the path our elders have forged for us. We are never too old to make a difference. Our story is continually being written, no matter our age. But we won’t know what those stories are unless we take a moment or two to ask. So grab a cup of coffee, get comfy, and ask someone a few simple questions…questions that you might like to be asked. Let that conversation flow. Our elders have made a tremendous impact in the world, but often we don’t know the story behind those contributions unless we ask. Honor them….and take the time to say, “Thank you.”

Kari Snyder is the Senior Adult Program Coordinator at Prince of Peace.

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