It was a simple act. My elderly neighbor had eye surgery, so I baked a small cake and took it to her. I was a new Christian and a bit unsteady on my born-again legs, but I did know how to bake.
She was very grateful for the gesture. I felt simply radiant playing Lady Bountiful, spreading good will, happiness and sweet treats in my path. Giving has its reward, but pride in giving is not especially pleasant to look at, and I don’t think there is any reward involved.
Nevertheless, being quite pleased with my Christian charity, I skipped merrily home.
A few days later I called to ask if I could retrieve my empty plate of Sweet Treat Christian Charity. When I arrived, my neighbor was glad to see me, healing nicely, but distant.
“That’s OK,” I thought. “Old people are usually a little off anyway.”
It’s amazing how we view people who have lived longer than we have. They’re eccentric, too cautious, too talkative, too withdrawn. They smell funny. Their houses are too neat. They don’t hear well; they don’t see well; they walk too slow.
She seems so fragile. If I give her a hug, I might break a bone. He’s cantankerous; he’s grumpy. He only wants to talk about things that happened 50 years ago. She remembers every detail of her childhood, but she can’t remember what she ate for breakfast.
Now that I have a little age on me, I look at it quite differently. I laugh heartily out loud to myself in the grocery store. I treasure the moments of my life. Too eccentric? I don’t like to drive alone at night in the rain. Too cautious? Or just wise? I can talk and talk and talk. I can be still and be still and be still.
Old people smell funny for a variety of reasons. Things leak. The perfume we have worn for years is the scent we like. Mixed with disinfectant and foot powder, it’s not quite as alluring, though. We don’t notice the smells so much anymore. And did I mention … things leak?
Well, of course our houses are neat. Our kids took most of the furniture when they got married. Life is different when the three rowdy kids, the long-haired dog and the useless cat don’t live there anymore.
Hey, I hear what I want to hear. I see just fine — since my cataract surgeries, before dark, with my glasses, large print books and over-sized flat screen TV mounted on the wall. And I pace myself. What’s the hurry? I can get downstairs in one piece if I take the steps one at a time. Stop and smell the roses already!!
You won’t break my bones. Hug me! I’m human, and I love to be hugged. Kids know that. They’re not afraid to show some affection. That’s what makes us grumpy and cantankerous. We don’t get nearly enough hugs.
A little history lesson wouldn’t hurt, you know. Listen to an old person. The stories he can tell are the best. And I have it on good authority that if you’re really old, you can remember them any way you want on any given day. Who’s left to dispute it?
Well, back to the story.
I stood in my neighbor’s foyer, dish in hand, making very small talk, when the Lord spoke to my heart, “Pray for her.”
“I will, Lord. Just as soon as I get home. The children and I will pray for her. Good idea.”
“Pray for her now.”
“But, Lord, I’m new at this. I wouldn’t know what to say. Besides, I don’t even know if she’s a Christian. I wouldn’t know what to say. What would I say? What would she say? It’s probably better to wait until later. I really wouldn’t know what to say.”
“OK!” I screamed silently as I slammed the dish down on her lovely table.
I took her hands in mine and said, “I’d like to have a word of prayer before I leave.”
She led me to the couch, and we sat facing each other as I tried to think of what to say. I said something I know, but I don’t know what it was.
Finally came the “Amen!” In the South we say AY-Men! So be it. Now you can go stickin’ a fork in it ‘cause it’s done. And it was done. I was done. I had started to sweat a bit and was anxious to take my leave.
This dear, fragile lady looked at me with tears in her eyes.
“Thank you,” she gushed, then added, “My sister lives in Florida. We talk on the phone a lot, but I don’t get to see her. She said she has somebody who comes and prays with her, but I’ve never had anyone who would do that with me. Thank you.”
“Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me.” — Jeremiah 35:13 (NLT)