For the past three years, my children have performed in a Christmas program presented to the assisted living and nursing home residents in our community.
Several friends of mine began the practice a few years before we joined. By the time we came along, their program included a narrative form of the Christmas story, costumes, printed music, and instruments for a bell choir. The organization and planning were quite impressive. I was given the job of making ornaments for our children to hand out to the residents, which was right up my alley.
However, I was a little fearful. It was unsettling to think about getting older, getting sick, and leaving home once I could no longer care for myself. Going to retirement homes might force me to think of those things.
I was, and am, a sentimental girl. If the thought of having grown-up children on Christmas morning made me feel depressed, what would thoughts of assisted living do for me? How would I feel during the presentation- sad, or weird? How would it smell in there anyway?
Like almost anything else, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. The residents at the first stop kept teasing our older boys, who were all 15 and over, because they were lip syncing, instead of singing. That was funny.
Watching all of our children, great and small, use the hand bells to play the Christmas carols, made me feel so emotional that I thought I might cry for one hundred years. There is something about their young, shining faces, reciting and acting out the two thousand year-old Christmas story that melted me, and the residents, like snowmen.
I could just imagine the thoughts of those older men and women who were surely thinking about the beauty of their own past Christmases.
One Christmas Eve morning, when the kids were all small, my husband and I took them to eat the breakfast buffet at Golden Corral. Of course we were all dressed in our holiday finery. Incidentally, Pastor John MacArthur said in one of his sermons that you shouldn’t have children just so you can dress them like Little Lord Fauntleroy. That made me laugh, because one of the reasons I wanted a little dog was so that I could buy those cute little pet sweaters and Halloween costumes. I have an amazing, gorgeous cat, but he would definitely NOT appreciate being dressed in pet clothes.
Anyway, there were several older couples eating as well. One couple came by and said, “You have a beautiful family.”
The next couple said, ” I bet you are going to have such a wonderful Christmas!”
The look in their eyes, as they saw my kids, and probably remembered their own children on Christmas, made me realize just how lucky I was to have young children. I saw those same looks in the eyes of the people we visited in the assisted living homes that day.
Most of the places we visited that first year were super- nice. The furniture, and textiles were cozy and inviting. The residents looked well. The staff members were phenomenal, and very welcoming also. Those observations helped to alleviate my previous retirement-home fears.
I didn’t leave feeling as though we, or our kids had done some great thing. I just left feeling so grateful that I still had children at home, just like that day at Golden Corral.
Watching the program reminded me that we were there to show love and spread The Gospel. Also, I knew that I didn’t have to fear the future, even a future without young children (I could just have a little dog with a Christmas sweater, right?), or life in an assisted living home.
When we presented our program this year, one of the caregivers told me that the residents always come out to see the children perform, even those that never attend any of the other activities. She also suggested that we come throughout the year, rather than only at Christmas time. Her encouragement planted seeds for future ministry ideas.
Like the Proverbs 31 woman, who is one of my favorite women in the Bible, as long as I obey the Lord, I can smile at the future.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.