Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Forgotten

I don't know anyone who isn't busy.  Whether is it raising their children, working, contributing to society or doing whatever.  It is the American way, we lead busy lives.  Imagine what life would be if your children were gone, you weren't able to work and many of your friends were gone.  Add to that health problems, loss of hearing or vision and chronic pains.  What if you couldn't do the things you can do today?  What if you didn't have all the contact with the outside world that you have today?  What would your life be then?  Would you be able to find a purpose in your life?

This is the situation that many Americans live with daily.  It is called Old Age.  And barring any unforseen circumstances, we are all headed that way.  Unfortunately, this can be a very sad time for people.  They are lonely, in pain, and unable to do what they once could.  Sometimes, they even loose their purpose in life.  No one remembers them and they become "The Forgotten."

Sure, a lot of us probably take care of our elderly parents/grandparents any way we can, but there are many people that don't have children to care for them.  Or their children are busy raising their own families and don't have a lot of time to devote to their parents.  I know even with my brother and sister in town to help my parents, the days are still long for my mother, who is blind, and my dad, who is in physical pain. I also hear the sound of happiness in my mother's voice when she tells of how a neighbor with a young child stops by and visits a minute.  Or about the neighbor that sends cookies at Christmas.  Her voice is bright and she thinks it is so nice of them to do these things.  Being remembered is what matters to her.

When I was a child, my mother used to have my siblings and me deliver Christmas cookies to all the elderly shut-ins in our neighborhood.  Although, as children we didn't always like to do this, she taught me a very important lesson; we must remember the elderly.  In fact, over the years, I did develop a relationship with some of these people and my mother would often find me on a porch chatting with an elderly woman way past dark.  I can't tell you a single thing we talked about, but I do remember sitting there and talking and enjoying every minute of it.  At the time, I didn't even realize that she was probably getting more out of our talks than I was.

As an adult, I never forgot that lesson I learned.  I periodically call or drop a note to neighbors I lived next to years ago.  I even have a distant relative that I have never met but found through ancestry research that I call several times a year.  She is in 84 and is homebound with chronic back pain along with other illnesses.  I can tell how excited she is by my call.  If I happen to miss her and leave a message, she will call me back daily till she catches me for a few minutes.  The last time I called, her son answered and told me how much my calls mean to her.  After I make these calls, it is amazing how good I feel!

I want to encourage my readers that during this Christmas season and throughout the year, please take care of the elderly around us.  You don't have to spend an enormous amount of time or effort.  Just a five minute call or dropping off baked goods can make all the difference.  If you have children, encourage them to draw a picture to give or mail to an elderly person.  If you find you have more time, volunteer at a nursing home, even if it is just once a month, to visit residents for an hour.  Just don't forget our elderly and teach your children to value them as well--one day, whether you want to or not, you will join this group!

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