Using Heni Nouwen’s book on “Aging” as our guide, we last discussed the futility of going out and finding the elderly to help them. Henri believes, and I agree, we have to draw them to ourselves by connecting with the aging stranger within ourselves. Beyond that he explains that, “the old stranger must first become part of our inner self and a welcome friend who feels at home in our own house.” Henri then proceeds to define the characteristics of a caring person, “of someone whose care brought him in contact with his own self.” He concludes that although there are many characteristics that , “two seem most important here: poverty and compassion”. In this blog we will discuss poverty. Henri defines poverty as, “the quality of the heart which makes us relate to life, not in property to be defended but as a gift to be shared. Poverty is the constant willingness to say good-by to yesterday and move forward to new, unknown experiences. Poverty is the inner understanding that the hours, days, weeks, and years do not belong to us but are the gentle reminders of our call to give, not only love and work, but life itself, to those who follow us and will take our place.” He admonishes: “How can I create a friendly space for the elderly when I do not want to be reminded of my own historicity and mortality, which make me just as much a ‘passer-by’ as anyone else?” He concludes that to care for the elderly we must allow them to, “make us poor by inviting us to give up the illusion that we created our own life and that nothing and nobody can take it away from us. This poverty, which is an inner detachment, can make us free to receive the old stranger into our lives and make that person into a most intimate friend. We can pay attention to what they have to offer without being concerned about what we can give. We can see what they are in themselves without wondering what we can be for them.” Can you relate to any of this??? I think it is easy to relate to children because we have experienced that phase of life. Do you think it is possible to push past our denial and connect with that aging part of ourselves in order to connect with the elderly? I believe it is necessary in order to participate more fully in our own growth as fully developed individuals. What we fear can only paralyze us.
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