I believe a major component of hospitality is putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own, even if it means you are uncomfortable for a while. This thought crossed my mind recently as I lay awake feeling a bit guilty for not visiting my grandma in her nursing home more often. She lives about an hour away, in the town my parents live in, but I still don’t make enough of an effort to go visit her. She’s lost a lot of her mental sharpness. Every visit just serves as a reminder that there really isn’t much of my grandma left. Plus, it’s just an unsettling environment and my kids are always on edge.
But here’s the honest truth. When I walk into that nursing home with my babies, those residents light up like the Fourth of July. They love kids and far too few kids come to visit.
It’s important to me that my kids feel comfortable around people of all ages. That means sometimes going out of their comfort zone to be Jesus’s hands and feet to the world. So, we’re all going out on a limb this Valentine week and visiting Grandma’s nursing home with valentines in hand for 30 of her fellow residents!
Inexpensive but Memorable Valentines
I’m pretty pleased with how my valentines turned out and they whole thing cost me less than $10 thanks to the Dollar Store. I purchased several stems of red and pink silk roses and cut them up to be individual roses. Each stem has 4-5 roses on it so you can get several flowers for just $1. Then I used white cardstock tags on little string from the office supply/craft section and wrote “Happy Valentine’s Day” on one side. On the other side, I stuck a foam sticker that looks like a Valentine Conversation Heart. I found these in the Valentine section. That candy was a staple of our grandparents’ generation. I remember my Grandpa and Grandma sending me and each of my cousins a box every year. When those elderly people see a red or pink flower with a conversation heart sticker on the tag, they’ll know in a heartbeat that it’s Valentine’s Day.
Connecting with a Nursing Home
If you’d like to recreate this activity, here are some ways to get started. First, if you have a nursing home you’re already associated with, that’s a great option! Call ahead and let them know what you’d like to do. They may even be able to provide you with the names of the residents who would most appreciate the gift. If you don’t already have ties to a nursing home, use your social media connections to locate one in your area. Always contact the administration ahead of time for permission. Most nursing homes are thrilled when people reach out so you shouldn’t have any problems getting the go-ahead. If you just aren’t ready to take the full plunge with a nursing home, think of other seniors in your life. If you have seniors in your neighborhood who seem isolated, they are the perfect person! You could also call your church and see if there are any elderly attendees who would appreciate a drive by. This approach might actually end up being a bit more work in the end but your recipients will be a bit more familiar. I think it’s fair to say this activity could be done anytime between February 1-20 and still be in “Valentine Season.”
Helping Kids Gain Perspective
As I researched for this blog post, I was a little surprised to find how little information is out there for ministering to seniors. Of course, there is page, after page, after page about parenting and every aspect of child-rearing. Is it any wonder that our kids feel the world revolves around them when even the internet seems to hold them in the center? My challenge to you, even if this isn’t the right activity, is to be looking for ways to help your kids see beyond their life place this year. Whether it’s interacting with someone much older than them, or someone who doesn’t look like them, or someone who lives in a far-away place, find a way to help them understand how big the world is and that they are only a piece of a bigger whole. Help them understand their responsibility for showing love to others and helping keep the whole thing afloat.
Have you ever reached out to senior-citizens in your life? Either in a nursing home or just in your circle of influence? What did you do? How did they react? Do you have any other suggestions on what to do with kids? I’d love to know what you’re up to! Let me know how your expanding your kids’ horizon and meeting the needs of the underserved in your neighborhood!