i’m back from boston! the trip was full: eventful, delighful, and even a little painful. i learned so much and grew so much, and there are a few things i’d love to share with you!
first, before we get into boston, i’m very nearly failing at what i gave up for lent. there are easier days, and there are harder days. there are days when i have absolutely the wrong attitude, and days when i’m bordering on having the right attitude- realizing that i am giving up virtually nothing here, especially in comparison to what Christ gave up. especially when i realize that Christ gave it up for me. so i’m still working on that. but we’re not even halfway there yet… and i can tell that this has definitely been beneficial to me already in more ways than one.
second, boston. it snowed. and ruined our plans. God has a funny way of doing that. so especially towards the end of the week, we were forced to be creative with our ministry ideas. on thursday, a few girls and i went off in search of a nursing home that would allow us to deliver cards we had made and visit with patients- without having contacted them in advance. we were just sort of showing up and telling them we wanted to serve. most nursing homes seemed to think that this was a little… unorthodox… and didn’t allow us. which is completely understandable. we spent all of thursday morning visiting one of the members of our group’s grandmothers because we weren’t allowed to visit anyone else. by lunchtime we were pretty discouraged, but we looked up the locations of a few more nursing homes on google and set off again. the first nursing home we went to turned out to be luxury apartments- not a nursing home. thanks google. the next one we tried was actually located in a soon-to-be-bankrupt hospital that had closed it’s assisted care facility due to financial issues. we asked if we could visit any patients anyway, and were told by a very helpful front desk lady that that was not allowed.
we had only one location left to try- a place called “little sisters of the poor” that Google had deemed a nursing home. it didn’t really sound like a nursing home to any of us, and considering our run in with the luxury apartments, we weren’t too hopeful. we were already planning alternative ideas for what to do with our (very cute) cards when we came upon the little sisters home. we walked in and introduced ourselves to the front desk lady (surprise! it is a nursing home!) and she… paged someone. and a few moments later, a young woman named Jen came down and listened to us explain what we wanted to do, said “Ok!” and offered to take us around to the rooms on the third floor. we stared at each other in a little bit of disbelief, said a quick thankful prayer, and followed her. the next few hours were a blur of… love.
we met a retired priest who couldn’t see well enough to read the card we’d made for him, much less his bible. he blessed us, though, as we went to leave, and i’m sure that spending time with him was more of a blessing for me than it was for him.
we met a 95 year old woman who was completely blind in one eye and the other eye was definitely on it’s way out. She could barely hear a word we said, and she couldn’t walk or even stand anymore. in her own words, at this point, she’s, “Just waiting,” but i’ve never met anyone so content and confident in that in my life. i learned so much from her.
we met a woman whose memory was not entirely intact, who told me that “we’d still be friends” after i left. i’m holding her to that.
finally, we met Gloria. Gloria was one of the first woman graduates of MIT, one of the first woman teachers at MIT, and is still obviously a brilliant woman, but is completely bedridden and feels it deep within herself. her suffering was visible and difficult to witness, and two of our group left the room crying. pray for Gloria, that she would find God’s peace. she’s in the best possible place for her: everyone we met was full of love and joy and peace, even in the midst of pain, death, and suffering.
we asked Jen if we could come back again on Friday, and she said she’d love that, and so we did. Bright and early Friday morning we showed back up at little sisters, and she told us we could go on our own and do the rooms on the fifth floor. the men and women we met on Friday were able to live independently, and they were full of such wisdom.
we met one elegant woman who had written a book on aging with grace and humor. she gave us a copy.
the room we spent the longest in by far was Rita’s room- Rita was 93 years old, and she was a fighter. her mind was sharp, her hearing and eyesight sharper. she didn’t need a walker, and she liked to walk several miles to go to the store and spend her spending money allowance. she wasn’t afraid to tell you off or be unlady-like, and she could talk for hours about just about anything. what’s more, Rita had a calling, and she spent about an hour telling us about it. she was called to help people- she said that there were just too many times where she had ended up in the right place in the right time to help someone for it not to have been God’s will for her life. we also met Rita’s friend Anne, who loved to dance (Rita had never danced in her life, as she reminded us many times). When we finally had to leave, Rita simply said, “I doubt I’ll see you again in this life, but see you in the next!” i wish i had such peace.
the woman who we visited who meant the most to me, however, was Sister Myra. Sister Myra was a retired nun from England who had been a missionary to Africa in her younger years. when we walked in, she was reading some sort of missionary newsletter about drug problems among teenagers in the United States. she told us that we gave her hope. she said, “now i know that the good news will be preached, that the poor will be fed, that the economic crisis will end… because of you girls! you give of yourselves in God’s name- don’t stop!” and she hugged us and sent us out- promising to keep our card until the day she dies and to pray for us regularly.
we were all sort of stunned as we left her room… but as we talked later, it became clear that Sister Myra’s words had evoked a deep sense of calling in us. what we were doing in boston that week- everything that had happened, even just allowing God to make our plans for us rather than having any sort of plans of our own… we need to continue that back in nashville and back home and wherever we go. forever.