“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
– Matthew 25:40
I am breaking from my tradition of copying an entire story to show context today. This verse comes near the end of the parable of the sheep and the goats.
My wife was going to physical therapy the other day. She was riding in her wheelchair, pushing by her physical therapist. We rounded the corner and we had to weave through a gauntlet of nursing home residents who were parked in the hallway. Few of them made eye contact. One lady said “Hello.” My wife asked why they were parked helter skelter in the hallway.
The physical therapist said that it gave them something different to look at, to possibly stimulate other senses. It was also done for socialization.
I thought that the socialization was rather weak. They did not talk to each other. They stared with a thousand mile stare as if they were shell-shocked soldiers after a battle.
That caused me to think of what a nurse told my wife after about two days in the rehab center.
The nurse asked, “What’s he doing here?” She nodded in my direction.
My wife replied, “Who? My husband?” After a quick nod, my wife replied, “He’s visiting. He cannot help much, but he helps when he can.”
The nurse replied, “Most rehab patients rarely have a family member visit, and I have NEVER seen one stay all day.” There were comments about how special I was, but we all know “that ain’t so.”
That got me to thinking and observing. At this one nursing home, there were hundreds of people that never got a visitor. Maybe, while healthy, the old lady said, “If I ever go to a nursing home, do not visit me. Remember me the way I used to be.” But how does that work out now?
The few visitors that I have seen will take their loved one outside and have a picnic, so that the pre-school aged children don’t go screaming down the halls inside the building. But those visits are rare.
And thinking of volunteers, the hospital was crawling with volunteers, but the only volunteer at the nursing home that I saw was a lady who brought her greyhound, Bob, around for everyone to pet. She made a circuit of nursing homes. She would not rotate back to my wife’s room before my wife got discharged.
Do I have a point for this post? I don’t know. The problem seems overwhelming. How can you socialize with someone who only responds with mouth agape and a thousand mile stare? Is a smile enough? Are you willing to go to a home of this type and simply smile?
That brings one of my wife’s million songs to mind. If she doesn’t have words, she makes them up as she goes. “Smile a while and give your face a rest. Sit right down and elevate your chest.”
Who knows. When you take a journey to a nursing home for the purpose of smiling, you may have just made someone’s day.
These people are definitely among the least of these.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.