Many seniors have evaluated their life experiences and are passing treasures of wisdom on to the next generations. If you’re willing to slow down and listen, many seniors pack their wisdom into stories with gems to discover along the way. Sometimes they forget and repeat the same stories over and over, but repetition helps to ensure that the valuable lessons are learned and generationally transmitted. If you lack patience, slow down and spend more time with seniors. You’ll grow wisdom and patience.
I learned to connect with seniors when I was a young boy. Whenever our family drove to Pittsburgh to visit my grandparents, my grandpa always made it fun. We went to North Park where we fed the ducks and the deer. We always ended up at Burger King for Whoopers or brought back a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken for the family to enjoy. My grandpa always played games with me, and he always stocked up on pretzels and peanuts. He was as OCD as they come, but he made the goofiest faces and always made me laugh. My grandpa always made time for me, and he took us golfing and took us to Pirates games. I still have a few treasured gems that were passed on that belonged to my grandpa. My grandma prayed for fifty years for my grandpa to come to Christ. She taught me how to love, how to pray, and how to be faithful. My grandpa was seventy-six when he said “yes” to Jesus. Don’t ever stop playing or praying for seniors.
After I completed seminary, a church in Indiana hired me to be their Pastor of Nurture and Care. One of my roles was to oversee the “keenagers” ministry. I got to visit older people and to go on trips with the seniors. I made a real splash when we first moved to town. Our realtors who sold us our home invited us and the senior pastor’s family over to their home in the country. When I was exploring their woods with our boys, I found a vine and tried swinging over the creek like Tarzan. Unfortunately, the vine broke when I was right over the creek, and I was sopping wet by the time I got back to our hosts’ home. They graciously let me borrow some dry clothes, and they enjoyed calling me “Tarzan” for the next four years.
I had so much fun with seniors and spent so much time with them that they gave me permission to have “senior moments.” Being ADHD, this was the first group in my life who really understood how easily it was to forget, and they had no problem allowing me to “walk in forgetfulness” with them. We learned the rhythms of God’s grace as we walked and talked together. One of my favorite seniors was my neighbor, Paul. He was a retired physician and a deacon at the church. He let my boys and I come over to climb trees together in his back yard. Paul used to say that he was his own worst allergy patient until he met me. I learned from Paul that you’re never too young or too old to invest in people. I always felt loved when we were together.
My wife and I have met so many amazing seniors as we go for walks every night and stop to visit with people who are out walking or are sitting outside on their porches. We’ve developed “family-like” friendships with so many older people over the years as we’ve hosted groups for seniors. We recently started a new group for seniors. Each month we host a carry-in supper and show a movie and have great discussions. All we do is provide a safe place for people to get to know and to care for one another. Some have lost their loved ones. Some just need some friends. Some need to talk. Some need to laugh. Some need to pray. All we know is that when the Lord leads us to do something, we try to say “yes”, and we always get blessed.
My Talking Matters group at Tim Horton’s coffee shop has become quite a multigenerational experience. Our group ranges from forties to eighties. We have incredible conversations and enjoy investing in the staff, customers, and in one another’s lives and ministries. We write down words of wisdom that we learn along the way so that we don’t forget them. I’ve learned so much from my coffee house church. The longer we linger with people, the more they become treasured friends and a spiritual family. We all have things in life that trip us up. We need to be encouraged and challenged to exercise our faith and not shrink back from what God has made and called us to do. This morning at Tim Hortons, I got to pray these words over my senior friends. “I ask God to give you a complete understanding of what He wants to do in your lives, and I ask Him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:9-10).
Before I conclude this blog, I want to share some gems that I’ve learned from connecting with seniors. Don’t wait until you die to give away what’s important to you and important to others. Forgive people who hurt you, otherwise you’ll create a prison that you can’t get out of. Slow down and make time for people. Listen well, and don’t be in a hurry.
Get to know the people around you. Ask good questions and keep investing in the people around you. People want to be known and loved. Take your time and don’t give up on people. God loves His different children. Just be yourself. You don’t have to impress anyone. Making money doesn’t make anyone happy.
Making time to develop deeply spiritual friendships is priceless. Hang out with people who are very different from you. That’s how you grow. Words have power. Use them wisely. If you’re talking too much…stop! If you listen well, you will grow wise beyond your years. Walk in forgetfulness as you become masters of God’s love and grace. The best is yet to come!