11/10/2012 11:44:00 AM Age isn't a barrier to making a contribution
Catholic News Service
Charles and Ruth Keiffer check their cards for the last number called during Bingo night in 2008 at Holy Rosary Parish in Wilmington, Del. Bingo has gone by the wayside as fundraisers for most parishes, but some say the game of chance is a social outlet for seniors.
Recently, I went to bed with a bit of what I thought was chest pain. Could this be a heart attack? Is my number up? What should I do? I decided to say a prayer, go to sleep, and if I woke up, it obviously wasn't a heart attack.
Since I'm sitting here typing away, you know the answers to those questions, too. However, I know I'm closer to my "check out" time than I used to be. Looking back has much more value than it did years ago. In fact, when I heard an 11-year-old say something about a time when he was young, it sounded pretty silly to me, someone with a lot more time on my biological clock.
Older folks aren't sitting around waiting for their expiration date to come up. In fact, they're working hard at various jobs, and if they've retired from a workforce where they were paid, they become the most sought after person in a parish: the volunteer.
Parishes and Catholic schools couldn't operate very well without their older volunteers. In school, they read stories to children in primary grades, freeing up the teacher to do something else for a few minutes. Maybe they work with a student who needs a bit more attention in class or answer the phone in the office when no one else is available. I'm sure any principal could find a few jobs for a grandparent or senior parishioner ready to volunteer.
We also see more and more older people who have taken up the banner of social justice in the church, building houses for parish or diocesan outreach, tutoring young people in after-school programs, manning food pantries, fixing meals for the poor and homeless. They're not only an integral part of social programs, but they're also the reason some of those programs operate at all.
In my parish, many of the older folks belong to a group called Yesterday's Kids. While they have a number of outings just for fun, they also take on roles with younger parishioners as well. They might mentor engaged couples as they prepare for marriage or work with young parents as they prepare for their child's baptism.
Who would know better about what kinds of ups and downs a family will face than people who have already ridden that roller coaster? They also console the grieving by fixing and serving meals after funerals, times when others can't take off from work to help.
Aging may be no fun, as my mother told me, but it can be meaningful and fulfilling, not a time to sit down and decide life's over, waiting for the next long step into eternity. Physical aches and pains that were ignored over the years can become more than a nuisance, and once-healthy adults might have to take a few medicines to keep various body parts functioning properly.
The emotional highs and lows we've experienced over the years have made lasting impressions on us and often have made monumental changes in the way we look at life, love and our God. Maybe we've called or cried out to God in times of desperation, and hopefully we have celebrated and thanked God during uplifting times as well.
All of our happiness, our triumphs, our sadness and our tragedies make us who we are: still and forever children of God. As God's children we have responsibilities to our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than we are. Sometimes we have to stand up for others when we'd really rather keep quiet, keep our heads down and just take care of ourselves. Unfortunately, if we all do this, people who need us will be left without care.
Age isn't a barrier to making a contribution to our parishes, our communities and our world. We just have to believe it and then get moving.
The writer is editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.