We know this isn't always easy. Many seniors face difficult circumstances. Chronic illnesses and pain, financial hardships and the loss of loved ones can wear away our residents' joy and peace, making it hard to feel loved and to extend love. However, Jesus commands us to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37–39). The best way to overcome hardships and follow his will is to understand his intentions.
Jesus taught the answer to this question through the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Because the tale is often covered in Sunday School lessons and Bible studies, it's likely familiar to many older adults of faith.
In this parable, a Jew traveling to Jericho is beset by robbers, beaten and left for dead. His plight is ignored by his countrymen, but a foreigner has mercy on him. This good Samaritan takes the man to safety, cares for his injuries and pays for a place to stay while he recovers.
After the story, Jesus doesn't tell us that we are the Jew and our neighbor is those who are kind to us. Instead, he instructs us that we should strive to be the good Samaritan and show mercy to others — in essence saying our neighbor is anyone who crosses our path.
Love is the ultimate gift. It led God to give his only son for us, and it led Jesus to endure the cross in our place. Knowing we're loved so deeply offers Christians tremendous hope, joy and strength to face life's hardships.
By extending this love to others, we can:
Extending God's love can be incredibly simple and hard at the same time. Sometimes, all it takes is holding the door for a fellow senior carrying a package or using a cane or wheelchair.
There are times when loving our neighbor calls us to dig deeper and swallow our pride or leave an angry word unspoken. Here are nine ways our residents in Bethesda Gardens Communities across the nation can share God's love today.
Send an encouraging letter to a new resident or a neighbor who's going through a hard time. It doesn't take original poetry or long correspondence to let them know they aren't alone.
Outings to local stores are quite common in our Bethesda Gardens activity schedules. Ask someone going through a rough patch if there's anything you can pick up for them while you're out.
Arrange a delivery to show your appreciation to someone. Sometimes, a quick thank you for being a continuing presence in your life is the perfect pick-me-up for a caregiver, pastor or loved one. It doesn't have to be flowers; send a pizza or a gift card to their favorite bookshop. A personal touch makes the gesture even more meaningful.
Go a step further than offering to pray for someone — ask if they'd like to pray with you. If you aren't used to group prayers, ask your chaplain for help and remember that the longer you practice prayer, the more accustomed to it you'll become.
If prayer is something God has laid on your heart, ask him if starting a prayer group is part of your calling. You could arrange a scheduled meeting time in your assisted living apartment or one of the common areas within your community. Another consideration would be to start an email prayer request newsletter and share it with your neighbors.
Mr. Rogers often said there were many ways for a person to say, "I love you." Use beloved hobbies to make gifts, such as homemade cookies, knitted hats, greeting cards or DIY crosses made from nails and wire.
Complimenting someone is a great way to show them that you notice the things they work hard at completing and the gifts they have. Sometimes, it's just a good way to remind them what makes them special; other times, it can help them realize what they enjoy doing in life.
Listening carefully to what someone is saying makes the statement that they, and what they're thinking about, is worth your time. Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to give. Devoting yourself fully to the moment shows you truly do care.
Treating others the way we'd like to be treated is still one of the best ways we can love our neighbors. Combining this rule with the perspective of the old saying "What Would Jesus Do?" can help all of us find a way to draw closer to the heart of God and our neighbors each day.