My heart is so full of joy as I reflect on the afternoon I spent in a nursing home today. Our missions school is preparing to spend eight weeks in SE Asia, but during our classroom phase in Port Townsend, we spend each Friday afternoon on local outreach. I am grateful for this opportunity as we can immediately apply what we’re learning as a witness for Jesus locally. I chose to spend my Friday afternoons with four other students volunteering at a nursing home.
At week 1 of visiting this home, we met this dear old man named “Larry” who is recovering from a stroke. Most of the residents are wheelchair bound, and it seems to me that only a small minority actually plan to recover enough to move out. Larry is one of those men, and he is set on moving out before Christmas. And I believe him! Because I am leaving Port Townsend for our overseas outreach at the same time he wants to move out, I promised him that on my last visit I would play his favorite cello piece, the famous “Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 Prelude”. (I’ve got a lot of work to do!) I’ve seen Larry for four weeks now, and he has become so dear to me. I can’t wait for him to receive full use of the left side of his body–and more than that, I want to see him come to an understanding of the love of his Savior.
I met another dear woman today named “Amy”. In past weeks, I’d try to acknowledge her, but mostly avoided her because everything she had to say was a complaint. She had complained about her care, about her health, about her family, about the food–you get the idea. Today I was trying to sneak past her in the hallway so that I could use the restroom, but she was adamantly trying to get my attention. Quite reluctantly (to be honest), I knelt down next to her, held her hand, and endured a laundry list of complaints. By the end of her rant, I didn’t feel as frustrated or helpless as I thought I would; instead, I felt a deep compassion for her. I didn’t feel burdened, but had joy in my heart that in a small way I portrayed the love of God for her. We parted ways, and then she found me in the dining room a while later. She took my hand and shared a few more complaints, sat with me a minute, then said something that surprised me. She said:
You know, I’ve had such a hard time and no one listens to me, but you young people are different. You have been so kind to me.
Then she leaned in and rested her forehead on mine. I melted inside. Behind the hard facade was a precious woman who wanted to know she was loved.
The moment that put the proverbial icing on the cake for me was watching the simple joy of watching the residents receive our origami gifts. One of our creations was a paper frog, and as I played my cello from the front of the room, I got the privilege of seeing their smiles as they made the little froggy hop to and fro on the tables. It was so precious!
I am so thankful to the Lord for the chance to love these people. It is my honor and my joy. I can’t imagine not visiting nursing homes regularly for the rest of my life!