Henri Nouwen believes that the question is not:” how to go out and help the elderly, but how to create the space where they can be heard and listened to from within with careful attention”. He goes on to say that we often want to: “preach, teach or cure” and that prevents us from: “perceiving and receiving what those we care for have to offer”. Henri believes that: “healing first of all takes place by the restoration of self-worth”. He believes this is not possible: “unless there is someone able to discover the beauty of the other and willing to receive it as a precious gift”. Henri concludes: “where else do we realize that we are valuable people except in the eyes of those who by their care affirm our own best self?” He admits that this is: “far from easy. Old age is hidden not just from our eyes, but much more from our feelings. In our deepest self we keep living with the illusion that we will always be the same. We not only tend to deny the real existence of old men and women living in their closed rooms and nursing homes, but also the old man or woman who is slowly awakening in our own center. They are strangers, and strangers are fearful. They are intruders threatening to rob us of what we consider our own’. That paragraph is so powerful! I believe this is the heart and center of all ageism! I repeat Henri’s words again: “They are strangers, and strangers are fearful”. That is the fact and as he points out many times in his book on Aging, the only cure is to make friends with the stranger we are becoming. The best way to do this is to connect with those who have lived into the reality we fear. That is why we must draw them to us and make them welcome for as Pogo said so eloquently: “We have met the enemy and he is us!” By making friends with the elderly among us, we make friends with the stranger within us. How many of you agree? Have you had a different experience? Please share.
This space is dedicated to sharing the Good News with one another as we journey Home.