History was my least favorite subject in school. Too many dates, names, and events melted together and made learning history difficult for me. The concept and value of history was fascinating to me; the means to learn it was not. Each of us needs to understand our roots and where we have come from. We need to be fully present in the here and now. Our future can be shaped and enriched by knowing our past and present. History is important!
Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege to take a history course at a local retirement community. The class was named Eleanor. My experience was better than reading a three inch thick book and better than rote memorization of dates, names and events. Eleanor, a 98 year young parishioner, is an absolute joy to be around. She spoke fondly of her life and how blessed she has been. She then recalled her husband and how much she misses him. He preceded her in death over 30 years ago. She shared her life and times and I could only imagine the things she has seen in those years. I visualized the city of Altoona and the Juniata section as she told stories of her time there. I could hear the reminiscent tones in Eleanor's voice and I wanted to whisk her back in time.
She commented about her age and how she has lived so long. She wondered why she is still here. The ache in her heart, that which has been there for over thirty years, must be dreadful at times. The long hours of a day, sitting in a wheelchair, and Eleanor's patient waiting is unimaginable to me. She seems to take it all in stride and likes the place she calls home. Her eyes lit up when we talked of her kitty pictures. They were her buddies.
When studying history, it is good to be able to answer the question, "So what?". The caregivers and nurses who care for Eleanor work with great grace and love. When Eleanor has to take bad tasting medicine, the nurse follows it with a piece of candy. I guess Mary Poppins had it right. "A spoonful of sugar....."
Out in the hall, the nurse mentioned to Eleanor's granddaughter how much she loves Eleanor. She shared that Eleanor has an eternal smile on her face; even at an early morning wake-up at the start of her shift work. I think we just answered the question, "So What?". Eleanor continues to be a blessing to those around her and God uses her smile and spirit to enrich the lives of others.
“ ‘Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.'"
(Leviticus 19:32, NIV)
Her ability to hear is diminishing, her mobility is aided by a wheelchair, yet she has a sharp mind and can still bring a smile to faces of her family, the staff, and visitors. We believe Eleanor is the oldest surviving member of our church and know she is a walking talking book of history just waiting to be learned.
Have you fully appreciated your own history? Have you gleaned rich stories of your family and relived those accounts? If not, consider spending some time with your grandparents and parents if they are still here. Ask them about the past and where they have lived, the work experiences they have known, and the events they lived through. I promise you won't have to memorize a bunch of dates or names. I can tell you of an enhanced understanding of who you are and how you have been shaped by the lives of your family and ancestors. Consider using a video camera to record your conversation for future viewing.
One day, you may be sitting in a wheelchair enjoying a visit from a grandchild and you'll be the history book unfolding the glories and mysteries of the past. History, it's important!