I haven’t read my Bible in a long time. A really long time. In part because I’ve wanted a significant amount of
time to pass to allow me to forget some of the ways scripture has been taught to me over the years. Ways that
did me more harm than good.
So, I flipped open its pages the other day and just started reading. I found myself in Luke chapter nine where
Jesus is addressing His disciples regarding an argument they were having about who was the greatest among
them. A silly argument, indeed, but one in which needed some attention from the One who knew their hearts
Acknowledging the child who stood near Him, Jesus replied, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives
Me, and whoever receives Me, receives Him who sent Me . . .” (Luke 9:46-48). ). Children, I’m assuming, were
quite disregarded back in the day.
A few passages later, a similar situation unfolds. That is, similar in that Jesus was again drawing attention
to “the least among you.”
This time, a lawyer asks Jesus what is required to “inherit eternal life.” In essence, he realizes the answer
is written in the Law which basically says to love God fully and to love your neighbor as yourself. Seeking
justification, the lawyer asks for clarification about the definition of “neighbor.” Jesus goes on to tell him the
story of the Good Samaritan which defines “neighbor” as the most despised citizen among you who would
deliberately be ignored even if beaten and left to die in plain sight of all who pass by.
The story made me think of an incident that made national headlines a couple years ago. The story tells of
someone who intervened on behalf of a person whose purse was snatched. The “Good Samaritan” then gets
stabbed by the purse snatcher and falls to the sidewalk during the chase. For the next hour, people walk
past his bleeding body with the exception of one who leaned over to take a cell phone picture. By the time
paramedics arrived on the scene, it was too late. The man died.
I recall Matt Lauer from the Today Show reflecting on why something like this could possibly happen in a
supposedly humane society. First of all, he cited that when tragedy strikes in the midst of a collection of
witnesses, individuals automatically assume that someone else will step in to the rescue.
But, what stood out to me was Lauer’s statement, “We’re hard-wired to look away.”
This “hard-wiring” tends to apply to the nursing home setting as well. Again, we assume that “someone else”
will take care of our frail elders and individuals with severe physical limitations. Yet, so many of us are terrified
to darken the doors of institutions where we might witness unpleasant realities including individuals whose
bodies have long since passed the prime of life – many who are incontinent, slumped over with fatigue,
drooling, or whose memories and/or ability to communicate have been severely impaired.
As a society, Americans have created a norm where “someone else” will take care of our own. The “someone
else” factor may grow slowly extinct, however, after hearing a recent report saying that age 85 and older
is the fastest growing segment of our society. Furthermore, people are likely to run out of money well past
retirement. The answer? Adult children of older adult parents need to start addressing the “elephant in
the room” by communicating about the future. Perhaps the concept of the extended family will need to be
revisited as the new way of caring for “the least of these.”
I just returned from a trip to Germany where I stayed in a town of 4,500 people for several days. I asked my
host if there were any nursing homes in the community that I could visit. She said there was one.
One? Wow! I live in a town of three thousand people with two skilled nursing facilities, two assisted living
communities, and at least one senior housing complex. That means, there are approximately 150 individuals
receiving direct or indirect care from individuals beside their own family members.
My host friend then led me on a bike ride to the nursing home. There were only fifteen residents. I asked how
this could be possible. Of course, it was because most elders lived with their families or vice versa.
Back to my scripture reading. The above passages are ones I’ve reviewed countless times. Not to mention
another famous passage, Matthew 25:31-46, which also describes “the least of these.” But this time I received
a fresh perspective on what it is to be a Christian. You see, I was taught some very limiting views on how
one “becomes a Christian” – none of which implied what Jesus suggests in Luke 9 and 10 or in Matthew 25. If
what Jesus says is really true, then the mark of a Christian is to look toward “the least of these,” not to look
away. Authentic Christianity is about reaching out to the one(s) you would otherwise be tempted to ignore.
And like the Good Samaritan, to bend over backward for them.
Suffice it to say that to be a Christian is to be the “Someone Else.”
The Golden Years
By Kareen King
These are the Golden Years, mock some
Behaving as if aging’s glum
Choosing to let their pow’r succumb
Yet wond’ring all the while, “How come?”
Should wrinkles seek cosmetic cowl?
Or sagging bellies cry afoul?
The aging impasse make us growl
While youthful fads remain a-prowl
Alas! Cosmetic surgery!
The glamour seekers just don’t see
The beauty that comes naturally
While gold is needed in Haiti
The youthful throng move forth with pride
Pushing the aged crowd aside
Avoiding chances to collide
And hence results the Great Divide
And somewhere down the line, the old
Gave up their platform, truth be told
And moved on south to keep from cold
The aging quand’ry takes on mold
Seems foolishness to give applause
To life’s unfairest of all laws
That youth declines t’ward death’s cruel jaws
Succumbing to an unjust cause
Yet generations must combine
When elders live no longer fine
And need some help to sleep and dine
Now old wineskins take in new wine
This presents opportunity
For old to heal and young to see
For fruitless paradigms to flee
And gold to surface brilliantly
Some struggle to align the two
Initially without a clue
Of how to be or what to do
Alas, misunderstandings brew
Seems easier to shield their eyes
From those whose worth lay in disguise
‘Neath weathered frame of shrunken size
Indifference befalls good-byes
We park them in extended halls
Near t.v. sets or barren walls
Draping their laps with quilts and shawls
Observing other duty calls
The elders disappear within
A world of memories therein
And smile as they think of kin
And dancing to the violin
And all the while the call lights bling
Alarms and phones and beepers ring
While deep inside the robins sing
Sweet melodies of former thing
Applaud the ones who lend a hand
Who take some pause to understand
The inner landscape of those, Grand
Dismantling ageism’s brand
Hail to those who give warm embrace
Who bow their knee, speak face to face
Who take their time and slow their pace
To grant the aged center space
And when they do the tales emerge
No longer opting to submerge
The joys and trials, dance and dirge
Thus souls connect as paths converge
‘Tis true we are one and the same
It seems so simple once aflame
With boundless love devoid of shame
No longer in ageism’s game
Yet still, the golden thread must pull
Us all together, one in goal
The young at heart and old in soul
Combine as one, behave as whole
Yes! The Golden Experience
Brims forth with treasures so immense
Where there is no room for pretense
And only love makes perfect sense
Pure gold is simply what transpires
Through much refinement through the fires
Of hardships and estranged desires
Authentic hearts, the world admires
Allow me now to redefine
The Golden Years as ageless shrine
Your life-long tales are aged wine
Pruned from the most luxurious vine
So look beneath and you will see
The riches that await for thee
And look toward your neighbor. Flee
Withholding love and charity
And look beyond the mundane things
That hold you back like apron strings
New ventures wait, so spread your wings
So you can soar and live as kings
Remind us to unfurl our brow
Our disrespect to disallow
No more I-itting, just I-Thou
Now may you Gold Ones take a bow
These are the Golden Years, I say!
Through thick and thin, through come what may!
A Grand Finale on display!
We honor you and shout Hooray!
© 2010 Kareen King
“‘You shall rise up before the gray head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God. I am
Yahweh,” (Leviticus 19:32)
Kareen King is a Registered Drama Therapist, Keynote Speaker, and founder of The Golden Experience™. She
provides educational concerts to enrich and empower those who live and work in long-term care settings.
For more information, visit http://www.thegoldenexperience.com or email Kareen at kking@thegoldenexperience.