Autumn is not my favorite season.
There is a sense of sadness, of melancholy, of having to say “goodbye” to the plants and flowers that have so generously treated us to glorious color during the growing season.
Even the brilliant colors of the changing leaves indicate that the trees have stopped making the chlorophyll that creates the vibrant green color they held for so long. It’s really a sign of decay.
As the plants begin to turn brown and crispy from lack of water and the inevitable diseases that take hold late in the plant’s life, they still retain a few pretty blooms. In a vase, bunched together with a little careful arranging, their partly-brown leaves won’t show.
As the diligent gardener goes about removing these plants, there is a great opportunity to salvage many of these last flowers. People can be cheered by a surprise bouquet of these beauties that would otherwise have ended up on the compost heap. I have given away dozens of thrift store mugs filled with blooms, and wish I had given dozens more.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to similarly utilize the last beautiful treasures provided by the older members of our communities? The lady who used to teach Bible class but is plagued by sudden dizzy spells is not as useless as she may feel.
It may be harder to find anything attractive in someone who can’t deliver a hot meal anymore, but there is value and beauty if we look for it. So many churches are so centered on youth that the older members feel like they are “just along for the ride.”
Here are a few ways to put together your spiritual bouquet at your congregation.
- Don’t assume that because they don’t socialize much that they don’t like being around people. They may only be trying to avoid the rejection of the younger set. Go speak to them, and ask them how their week went. You might end up being the ones blessed by their company!
- Co-teach with an older member. Some younger members are afraid to teach Bible classes because of their lack of experience. Some of the more experienced teachers may not have the health or strength left to feel that they can be counted on to be there for every class. What if we could team them up? Energy of youth plus experience of age — what a great combination!
- That elderly couple that used to invite your parents (or someone else’s parents) to dinner on Sunday isn’t cooking much these days. Invite them over for dinner! They may be full of beautiful stories that your kids will enjoy. Children learn compassion at an early age by our example of caring for those who may otherwise be forgotten.
- Include them in activities. Did you want to see a movie? Maybe they do, too. Going to the grocery? An older person might appreciate the company, if not the help with heavier objects. In return, you may be gaining a valued companionship that you didn’t know you lacked…yet.
As I survey the ravaged garden, I see broken plants and fallen flowers. Much of it is “still good,” just as our aging generation is. Our job is to see the good, and let God use it.