Enjoy Life

Based on the stories she told again and again, I concluded she had once been a well-to-do woman. But now, as a resident in a nursing home, she was left with only a limited wardrobe and a few photos of her family.

As I looked at her, I tried to imagine what she must have looked like years ago and what her life might have been like. I had little to go on, other than that her long, wispy, silver hair she was trying to secure with hairpins was once blond and curly and cascading over her mink coat or her red sable stole. I knew she’d lived in a huge two-story house that was known to all the area residents, so I envisioned her clothed in an elegant dress and descending a spiral staircase as she prepared to greet her guests.

Such envisioning was hard, for now she was stooped and barely able to walk across the room to a bathroom devoid of all decoration, apart from a shelf lined with bedpans and wipes belonging to the three occupants of the room.

Another nursing home resident, a man who appeared to be in his thirties or forties, told me he had once played Little League baseball. But now, his head was drawn toward his chest, requiring him to peer up sideways at the person with whom he was talking. His left hand seemed useless to him, for it lay on his lap. But with his right hand, he could catch and throw the silky, fiber-filled balls we tossed to him during group exercise time. And he did so with delight, despite how limited his abilities were now, compared to what they had once been.

The more of the residents I met, the more “life lessons” I learned. For example, I became more and more convinced of the importance of enjoying life, especially when life is good, for that can change, sometimes in a matter of seconds.

I could only hope that each of the residents at the nursing home had enjoyed his or her life while they were able to be out and about and living in their own homes with their own families.

But, I’m sure that they, like you and me, often let one day after another go by without taking time to savor life’s simple pleasures. To avoid that, let’s ask ourselves, Do I delight in being able to feed myself or walk to the bathroom unassisted? Do I enjoy being able to take a daily shower or bath—in privacy? Am I truly thankful I can choose and/or cook my own food?

We should enjoy such blessings—and more—for we may not always have them. But even if our circumstances should change dramatically, I pray that we will still find simple pleasures to enjoy, as did the young man who so obviously enjoyed tossing the ball back and forth.

We can choose to enjoy life and to be happy wherever we are and whatever our circumstances, as I learned from observing another resident. She was one of the few who could walk unassisted, so she spent most of her time helping others. She pushed wheelchairs for those who could not take themselves where they wanted to go. She helped out in other ways, too, and had such a sunny disposition, despite the fact that her life was a far cry from what it had once been.

While reflecting on the life lessons I learned during my extended visit to the nursing home, I remembered what King Solomon said as he reflected on his life; “People should be happy and…enjoy themselves as long as they can” (Ecclesiastes 3:12).

That advice applies whether we’re living in abundance or in scarcity.

©2007 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill. Scripture quoted is from the New Living Translation. www.jgaskill.com

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