Look Closer—See Me

July 23, 2013

by Maria Fontaine

One of the saddest images I can imagine is that of an elderly person suffering, empty and alone. Someone who, having journeyed the long, hard road of life, is now almost at the end. Unless they love the Lord and have hope for the next life, they have nothing else to look forward to. They are often forgotten during their last years on earth, and their waning strength and inability to give or do more is often seen as an unwanted burden by others.

When I hear about how TFI members are bringing a glow of joy and love and hope into the lives of some of these people who have been forgotten by the world and the loved ones they once cared for, it deeply impresses me. It’s not an easy task, as these elderly folks may have become some of society’s more “uncomely parts” outwardly.[1] However, because you know that their hearts are just as desperate for His unconditional love as anyone else, you become Jesus for them.

The following was sent in by some of you in India, who have found joy in giving this kind of sacrificial love. I hope it may inspire others to take even little steps to be a light in the darkness of someone’s life when they need it.

“There is an old folks home close to where we live that is run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, who do an excellent job caring for the 130 elderly people who live there (the youngest is 65, the oldest is over 100). We have been working with them for the past nine years to cheer up the elderly and make their lives happier. Once a month we celebrate the birthdays of all those whose birthdays fall during that calendar month. We get a big cake and gifts for all of the birthday people, and then we get snacks and organize entertainment for all of the residents for one afternoon as a party to celebrate their birthdays.

“The elderly are touched by this and they all have grown very close to us over the past years, considering us their own family now. Every time we go, it is always a time filled with love and hugs and sweet interaction with these dear elderly. For two Christmases, we also did a project called ‘Make a Wish’ with them, where we asked each of them to write down what they wanted most. Then we went and found it for them and presented it to them as gifts. This was something that really touched them. A lot of our friends came forward to help with this project as well.

Working with the elderly in this way is something that really touches our contacts and friends, and we use it as a platform to share more of our work with them. A number of our contacts come to help with the parties each time, and eagerly contact us to find out when the next one is happening. It’s a wonderful way to get the people that we are ministering to involved with reaching out to others.”

Here is a little observation made by a Christian pastor[2]:

Aging has a way of taking its toll. One of the experiences of pastoring that I enjoy least is walking through the halls of a nursing home—however upscale or downscale in price and quality—sniffing the acrid smell of urine in the air, hearing the moans and groans of persons almost animal in nature, and seeing (in room after room) persons once vital, alert and rational, many of whom are now only a faint memory of that once vivacious young woman or energetic young man. I am reminded of these words, anonymous in their origin:

What do you see, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you're looking at me?
A crabby old woman not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.
I'm a small child of ten with a mother and father,
Brothers and sisters who love one another.
A bride in her twenties—my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vow that I promised to keep.
A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty, my sons have grown and have gone,
But my man is beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty, once more, babies play around my knees;
Again we know children, my husband and me.

I'm an old woman now and nature is cruel;
'Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart;
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, and I remember the pain;
And I am loving and living life over again.
I think of the years all too few—gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, open and see
Not a crabby old woman; look closer—see me.

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:23 KJV.

[2] John A. Huffman, Jr.