This past weekend I had a chance to sit with an elderly person who was participating together with me in some religious services.
During the hours between services, he asked to speak with me and we sat for awhile and schmoozed. He regaled with me stories from his youth, growing up in the Bed-stuy section of Brooklyn. These were the times when you could buy a “pickle for a nickel.” The man, while physically compromised and wheelchair bound, is completely alert and oriented and had so much wisdom to share.
We talked for about an hour or so and at the end of our conversation, his eyes welled with tears and he thanked me profusely as he took my hand in his.
He began to cry and this is what he said: “I live alone with only a caregiver to attend to my physical needs. My family has since departed, except for one brother who lives in California. I have nobody to talk to and nobody to share my memories and experiences with. To me, this is worse than death, because I feel so isolated and alone in the world. With your kindness and generosity of spirit you have given me the most precious gift of all; your time.”
I was stunned and touched at the same time. Here I work in Healthcare and interact with elderly people daily. At Regency Nursing Centers in New Jersey, we obviously touch the lives of our patients and residents every single day, because we spend quality time with them to listen to their stories even as we heal their bodies.
However, I’d been missing the significance of this all of this time until now!
More than caring for the physicality of our patients, they need and indeed yearn for that emotional connection and listening ear! They want our time and our respect and validation of their humanity inherent in these displays.
To us, this isn’t even a sacrifice since it is part of our job descriptions! To the patient however, to offer them of our time is to bestow upon them a valuable ‘gift’.
As I contemplated the import of this concept, I found tears coming to my eyes as well and I thanked Lenny for not only teaching me a valuable lesson, but for sharing of his own time and experiences with me!
When you give a gift, you get one in return!