When was the last time you attended a church service? Was your first observation upon entering the sanctuary that there was a preponderance of old people filling the pews? Did it seem as though the church was a sea of white/blue hair with an occasional island oasis of brown, blonde or red? A self-centered, cynical youth might get the impression that church is a haven for old people. They are beyond fishing, camping, family excursions, and the myriad activities that fill youthful lives. Old people have the time to attend church services. Perhaps old people have a keener appreciation of their own mortality. Attending church becomes a way to find the path to the pearly gates. After a lifetime of activities that have led people astray, they suddenly find a need to get right with God before Judgment Day.
There is a woman who has made a career of helping people in their hour of need. She meets one-on-one with representatives of every socio-economic stratum, of every race, and of every level of anxiety. She does it five days per week, eight hours per day. Each encounter varies in length from 20 minutes to an hour. There are those she can aid and those who are beyond help. The nature of her employment establishes strict parameters. She cannot deny assistance to an irascible, unkempt, impolite, disrespectful miscreant. Neither can she take that one delicate, sympathetic, kind, courteous, motivated person under her wing; offering moral support, comfort and sustenance. There is always someone waiting, another person in need. Her career is measured by efficiency. How many people did she see today? How many was she able to help? What was the level of help? Did the contact satisfy established standards? Next!
First impressions provide an image of an attractive woman who takes pride in her appearance. Her crisp, brightly colored dress reflects a genuine desire to brighten someone’s day. Standing at the entrance to her cubicle with a warm smile and gentle, welcoming gesture, her appearance evokes a sense of appreciation for the circumstances surrounding the visit. A quick scan of her neatly organized office reveals that this lady is not only pleasant, she is also skilled at her profession. Three certificates indicate completion of three levels of training. Next to the photo of her husband is a photo of her “chosen family” – her coworkers. Above all that, a photocopy of a simple black and white document is tacked to the most obvious place on the wall in this otherwise austere place of work.
The meeting flows smoothly. All the bases are covered in a style that proceeds uninterrupted from beginning to end. She has followed this established routine a thousand times, yet there are no signs of boredom. The tedious nature of her work is hidden behind a very real enthusiasm. Excited by even the smallest partial solution to the issues plaguing her “client,” her attitude instills a sense of hope. The encounter comes to a close.
A person’s path through life is marked by the footprints left in the sands of time. The greater the impact of their work, the deeper and more permanent are the footprints left behind. Alice, as she is known to the people she helps, is leaving footprints that will last a lifetime.
There is another reason for the age imbalance found among those who actively worship. Experience. By the time a person earns the privilege of wearing the mantle of white hair, he has experienced joy and sorrow, pain and suffering, anger, pride, frustration, deceit, satisfaction, and love. Like steel, his soul has been tempered with the heat of overwhelming emotions. A spiritual awakening occurs as he comes to appreciate the magnificent gift he has received through the hands of others. Thoughtfulness, generosity, understanding, affection, kindness, support… These unselfish gifts are our source of strength. Only a deep and abiding faith can generate those random, unplanned acts of love for our fellow man.