“My name is Sam,” I replied.
“Sam who?” he asked loudly.
“Sam Dick,” I added.
“Ohhh, Sam… Dick,” he said slowly. “I pray for you regularly. Keep it up.”
I couldn’t believe it – this dear man knew who I was and prayed for me. I had completely misread Henry’s blank stare. He turned out to be one sharp cookie, whose insightful questions and wit blessed me the entire lunch hour. Henry and I were attending an annual luncheon for MB Mission’s long-term missionary alumni. Together, he and his wife Nettie had more than 50 years’ experience of church planting service in Europe and the West Indies.
I’m often amazed at the care and concern coming from those we call “senior citizens.” It seems to be a recurring theme for my wife Heidi and me.
That conversation with Henry was no exception. It came shortly before Heidi began five months of chemotherapy treatment. Preparing to battle breast cancer had been an emotional roller coaster; a bit like trying to see the shore from the middle of the ocean on a windy day – in a canoe! At times, land appeared but then it was gone again, hidden by the swells.
Don’t get me wrong – we weren’t starved for care. We were blessed by consistent gifts of time, food, and attention from our friends and family.Still, how did a few moments in the presence of a sage so quickly put life into perspective?
Somehow, many older people “get it” – maybe not all the time, but age and experience have certainly refined many of these folks. Here’s what I think:
They understand how much talk is too much.
They know how to listen.
They know the exact moment to give you a squeeze.
They relate to your pain, sometimes without the need to divulge their own.
They look you in the eye, able to say the word “cancer” without fear.
They know the lingo associated with treatment.
They understand how to trust medical doctors – and how to wait for endless test results to return.
They know completely what it feels like to be reminded that life is fragile, a gift from God.
Most importantly, they tell you they’re praying for you (often adding “daily” or “throughout the night, whenever I wake”).
How can I thank them? They don’t seem to need it (even though I did call Henry today on the phone – it was my turn to pray for him). Embodying encouragement is what they do, quite effortlessly. Sages, this is my simple tribute to you!
So let’s not write off anyone based on the colour of their hair. Keep a look out for that touch of grey and strike up a conversation.
—Sam Dick is the North American mobilization coordinator for MB Mission. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., with Heidi and their two children, and is a member of South Abbotsford MB Church.