The Doorway of Homes
By Clayton Adams There was a time I visited people in nursing homes on a regular basis. Many of the folks who reside in nursing homes have been totally forgotten, ignored or simply “putaway” by their family and some residents have no family and have outlived their friends. I have met some amazing people in nursing homes, men and women who helped build and defend this country. Women who woke before daybreak, with no one else in the home stirring, began their long day of toil. Men who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and a few military operations not recorded in history books. From the entry door to a resident’s room, the walk down a hallway can be the most joyful or depressing walk a person may make. Joyful because walking down the hallway of what I have termed, “doorway of homes” one can meet people sitting on their front porch (doorway to their one-room homes) waiting for a family member or a new friend or even a stranger to stop by and share an hour or two of precious time. Depressing, because while walking down the hallway of the “doorway of homes” one realizes that many of the residents are the forgotten and perhaps, one day, we may be a resident. Old people have a unique way of sharing history. Many stories have been shared with me about marriages, children, work, faith, endurance, the unfairness of life, how white and black folks fought against each other but also with each other. The Civil Rights history conveyed by people who lived before, during and after the 1930’s, ‘40’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s is so much more meaningful than simply reading it in a book. I believe students would benefit much more through this type of cultural enrichment than a trip to the Pink Palace, the Memphis Zoo or a park. I know the students and residents would be greatly enriched and lives forever changed for the better. As a pastor, I learned not to ignore the folks sitting on their front porch because unknown to me, they were waiting for me. God had ordained a meeting, if only a brief meeting between me and them. Often, it would take me thirty, sometimes forty-five minutes to get to the person I initially set out to visit. My time was spent visiting with folks sitting inside their doorway. I soon valued these unscheduled visits and though I intended to visit with one specific person, others needed my time and I needed them. Strangely, I found myself being encouraged by these unscheduled visits – everyone in a nursing home has the human need to be valued and most all of residents have a desire to share their life story. These folks have purpose and significance. They have knowledge and wisdom gained through their many years and experiences. Unfortunately, many residents go to their graves not sharing their amazing stories, they are unable to pass down their rich experiences because no one comes to visit them. Women who had a very difficult life are sometimes the best counselors for other women who are experiencing difficult times. Old men, full of regrets are great encouragers to young men who haven’t made their regrets. Teenagers, full of themselves, arrogant and ungrateful would benefit with routine visits with folks on their front porches. Old people, particularly crusty old people who tell them “how the cow ate the cabbage” are exactly what a teenager needs in his or her life (I had one crusty old person use the phrase “how the cow ate the cabbage” often – I still do not know what it means but it sounds good). Aside from Salvation of the human soul, time is the most precious and valuable gift God has given to us. According to the Bible, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time for everything, to be born, to die, to kill, to heal, to destroy, to build, to cry, to laugh, to mourn, to celebrate, to love, to hate, to war, to peace, to work and to rest. What are you doing with your time? Do you need encouragement? Do you need counseling? Are you angry at whatever circumstances you find yourself in? Are you lonely? Are you feeling sorry for yourself? Does your son or daughter need an attitude change? Do you want to make a real and lasting difference in someone’s life? Each of the nursing homes in our area have residents who need a visit, someone to listen, someone who needs a new friend, someone just to push them around the hallways to see what is going on – they all need human touch, human interaction – perhaps someone needs you. As a pastor and now working in the medical field, I have learned that the folks who take care of other folks, (Nurses, Doctors, APN’s Medical Assistants), all caretakers, need more caretaking than the patients. Certified Nursing Assistants, (CNA’s) have one of the most difficult jobs in our society. The actual physical work of lifting, assisting, cleaning, washing, feeding, is very difficult work and the stress never, never subsides. Working in a nursing home is both a job and a “calling” in life. Not everyone can perform these roles. I am grateful and thankful for the many good nursing homes in our area and very good people working with the residents. Oh, if you are present for Bingo time — do not try to talk to anyone playing, just sit, listen, watch and repeat the numbers called out – sometimes this was the best thing I ever did during my visits.
Clayton Adams, West Memphis, AR, email: claytonpadamslll@ gmail.com