All of us see through different eyes. The prejudice and bias that we carry colors how we see life. When we were growing up, the young cared for the old. People have changed and time has changed with it. The change has not been all that good. We seemed to have lost considerable reverence and respect for the aged.
Some thirty years ago, when I was in mid-life years, I was given a poem to read. It was impressive but not that much, for I was still in the rush of life, buying newer things, and getting ahead. Now, as a man well up in age, I read it again, and the weight of many years brought tears to my eyes. How can we be so blind, so hurtful, so unconcerned about the ones who bore us, raised us, sacrificed for us.
The following poem is dedicated to all those folks who feel neglected and misunderstood. Read it slowly, carefully and say a prayer of hope that the autumn days and winter of our lives will be better for us.
“What do you see people, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit with far away eyes.
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply,
When you say in a loud voice, ‘I wish you’d try.
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
Who forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who unresisting or not, let’s you do as you will,
With bathing or feeding the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that all you see,
Then open your eyes and listen to me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I use at your bidding and eat at your will
I’m a small child of ten, with a father and mother,
Brother and sister, who love one another.
A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at twenty – my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At twenty-five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to build a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast.
Investing my time in menial tasks.
At forty my young have grown and are gone,
My man’s still beside me, to see I don’t mourn.
At fifty once more babies play at my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look to the future, I shutter with dread.
My young have all reared young of their own,
I think of the years and the love that I’ve known;
Now I’m an old woman and nature is cruel,
‘Tis her jest to make me look like a fool.
The body it crumbles, grace and vigor departs,
I now have a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
Now and again my old battered heart swells,
I remember the joy, the struggle, the pain,
I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years, all too few – gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes people, open and see,
A crabby old woman, you’re not looking at me.”
(Note) While the name of the author of this poem is unknown (anonymous), it was found in a small bundle of effects left upon the death of an old Scottish woman of Aberdeen Scotland.
The apostle James wrote, “Pure and undefiled worship in the presence of our God and Father is this, to care for orphans and widows in their distress, to keep oneself untarnished by the world” (James l:27).
In the middle of a lecture I was giving, an elderly man who had advanced Alzheimer’s, rose to his feet and with a loud voice began shouting with threatening with unintelligible words, moved to the front and stood directly in front of me. The audience was hushed. I instinctively put my arms around him and whispered in his ear, “We love you, man – you have served this congregation for many years – You have done so well, we all love and respect you, man”. His son, who had been called to the phone earlier, hurried down the aisle and gently led him away.
I turned to the shocked audience and said, “When I get old, and lose my mind, and shout out angrily as if I am in another world; will you still love me? Will you respect me and hold me and tell me so?”