by Angie Copetillo on December 19, 2016
My grandmother lives in a nursing home in Round Rock, Texas. She isn’t just any grandmother. When Daniel was born she moved across the country to the foreign land of Tucson, Arizona (that’s as foreign as Egypt when you’re born and raised in Kentucky) to help me care for him while working. The working didn’t last long. Motherhood was my calling, but Grandma stayed nonetheless. And she kept moving with us. St. Simons, Bluffton, Auburn. For the next 12 years, after Grandpa passed away, she lived with us and helped me raise the boys. She sacrificed and gave so much. The boys know her with great fondness and trust. Their childhood memories will always be filled with her.
Today is Habersham Service Day. My group of 8th-12th graders arrived at my doorstep this morning to bake goodies and wrap gifts, in preparation for singing and visiting with the residents at Thunderbolt Nursing Home. Twelve students with little understanding of the pain and loneliness of growing old prepared to visit those all too familiar with such.
I have visited nursing homes many times, but I was unprepared for the emotion of watching these young people I adore sing for the elderly, only a few of whom had any idea what we were singing, or even that we were singing. This was a different kind of song. Singing not for the applause or even for the smiles. This was a song of selflessness. The few guests who sang along heartily provided much-needed joy amidst the awkwardness of such obvious age, illness, and loneliness.
Following our caroling, at the express urgency and instigation of our senior girls, we were given permission to pass out bags of treats we had made for those guests without dietary restrictions. You could tell the girls were eager to connect and help alleviate the loneliness, if only for a few minutes.
And here is where the mission met the road. We split into groups – East Wing and West Wing – and distributed gifts, stopping whenever someone was able to converse. They wanted us there to help wrap gifts (which we did too!), but we wanted to be with the people. Two precious moments stood out among the rest:
1) Meg Stautberg, 12th Grade, met Joan, a lady who once loved to read but couldn’t anymore. Photographs of a beautiful family and great grandchildren adorned her side table, but she didn’t know clearly who they were. An aide told us part of Joan’s story, including her love of reading, and how much it meant that we stopped by to visit and took time to speak. Joan was eager to know the words written on the goodie bag. Meg read the scripture to her, Luke 2:10-11. She was confused by Luke and our student’s signed name on the bag. Meg patiently explained Luke from the Bible, and I explained how our students signed the bags. Her aide handed Joan her magnifying glass and thanked us again while Joan asked more questions. Her aide explained Joan would spend most of the day reading that scripture with her eye glass.
2) One of our last stops before heading to wrap gifts was Ms. Nancy, a sprightly resident from North Carolina who once lived in Germany. It was Nancy’s 90th birthday today, so Mr. Hart, Jacquelyn Harn, Abigail Blanda, and Reeder Chambers had found her on a special day! It didn’t take long to see Nancy loved the company and loved to dance. She shared stories for nearly an hour – telling us about her music CDs, her family, her husband who died, and her love of dancing. As we left, she called her daughter and told her all about the new friends she had made and how it made her day. Well, she certainly made ours, and we’re all better dancers for it! At the Hop by Danny and the Juniors filled the air as she took turns teaching the jitterbug to Reeder and Jacquelyn.
Our mission talks about every child being made in the image of God. Our hope is that today, our Habersham students all came to a deeper understanding of that mission by serving others, others who also are fellow image bearers. We became more fully human today. And your children blessed me in that process too. I know I wasn’t the only one. At other nursing homes and community centers and neighborhoods, scores of citizens were blessed.
I hope Round Rock, Texas has a school that visits nursing homes where children sit and patiently listen to my grandmother tell sweet stories of her youth and share memories of our family, like I heard today. What a blessing it is to pause and take time to listen, for we all have stories to share; we all are image bearers of the most high God, who sent his son to become man.
For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. And the Government will be on his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6-7