I need to tell you a couple of things on behalf of people who often feel they are ciphers. A cipher is the numeral zero or someone without influence or importance; yet, they are always on my mind.
The first thing is: I would just love if everyone would adopt a Holy Spirit resident; you could call it the “Chaplain’s ARP (Adopt a Resident Program).” You can ask the activity director, Mary Hildman, (712) 252- 2726, for residents’ names who would really appreciate a card from anyone – someone who would take time out of his busy schedule to pay special attention to an elderly, card-less person. If you could see a resident who has received a “surprise” card, you would see them read and reread the card many times a day. You would glow as they glow.
The second thing is: I would love it if someone would take my weekly bulletin and read it to a resident, who would absorb it as best as he/she can. (Maybe the reader, too.) I do a lot of teaching in my bulletins, and it helps the residents refresh their memory by hearing it again. For instance, in past and future bulletins I’ve talked about Angels, Archangels, End of Life Decisions, Ordinary and Extraordinary Treatment, and so on. Each bulletin also has a humorous story such as, “Driving down the highway one day, I saw this slogan on the back of a well-known trucking company’s vehicle: ‘We Go That Extra Mile.’ Then I noticed another phrase scrawled in the dirt just below it: ‘Because We Missed the Last Exit!’”
Or, “Unable to attend the funeral after his Uncle Charlie died, a man who lived far away called his brother and told him, ‘Do something nice for Uncle Charlie and send me the bill.’ Later, he got a bill for $200, which he paid. The next month, he got another bill for $200, which he also paid, figuring it was some incidental expense. But, when the bills for $200 kept arriving every month, he finally called his brother again to find out what was going on. ‘Well,’ said the other brother, ‘You said to do something nice for Uncle Charlie. So I rented him a tuxedo.’”
So, you can see a simple story can go a long way towards bringing joy into someone’s life. Now I want to close with a short story of someone who simply made a resident’s day.
Rocking With Me
“There was once an elderly, despondent woman in a nursing home. She wouldn’t speak to anyone or request anything. She merely existed – rocking in her creaky old rocking chair.
“The old woman didn’t have many visitors. But every couple mornings, a concerned and wise staff person would go into her room. She didn’t try to speak or ask questions of the old lady. She simply pulled up another rocking chair beside the old woman and rocked with her.
“Weeks or months later, the old woman finally spoke. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘Thank you for rocking with me.’”
We have plenty of card-less residents and a few extra rocking chairs. You might just find that the rhythmic squeak-squeak of the rocking chair can be so soothing for everyone.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.