At a local Assisted Living center, I recently taught a class on the book of Job. Residents who attended showed a variety of mental and physical limitations, something most of us will experience in one way or another. The class, therefore, presented me with several challenges. After about six gathered, we delayed starting because others were still coming. Some were anxious to begin, but better to wait for everyone and not interrupt the flow. Because they are not aware of what has gone before, even one person joining a group experience changes the dynamic.
After we began, another person joined us anyway. Then another. One man entered later, carefully using his walker to get to his seat. The man’s verbal responses revealed he had difficulty tracking the conversation. Two other ladies also entered some time later. Then, the staff attendant joined the group. I had expected him earlier to help me get set up. As I spoke, a younger man outside knocked on the window of the door to announce this was the time for the recently settled gentleman in the class to have his physical therapy. The staff attendant assisted the resident, got his walker, as he and the physical therapist, clutching a bright blue handball, helped escort the man out. I found the whole experience teaching in this environment a challenge: keep my cool, stay on target, keep connecting with those who paid attention and adjust to unexpected changes.
After the session concluded, one person thanked me for helping her recover her spiritual values. Another, who was reading my book, Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope for Yours, gave a glowing report, mentioning the self-help suggestions as especially meaningful. One of the late-comers, whose name I never learned, thanked me for my teaching. But one 96-year-old also asked, “Why am I still here? My sisters who are younger have gone,” she explained.
Finding Purpose for Living
Here, I experienced a slice of life of the aged. I’m younger and more vigorous, still functioning in a leading and teaching capacity. Nevertheless, some day I may well be in their shoes. The last question particularly struck me: When we outlive our loved ones, what is the point of living? No one can give another person a reason to exist. We must all discovery it for ourselves. So this is my challenge next week, if that 96-year old returns– and doesn’t forget her question.