2/14/08

My Children's Valentine's Gift

'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Alfred Lord Tennyson

When you think of entertaining or hospitality, the synonyms for these words mean welcome, warmth, kindness, generosity and engagement. That is the beautiful side. But the other side brings unfriendliness, sadness, alienation and isolation.

Yesterday I experienced the not so lovely. I walked beside seventy 5th grade students as we strolled over to the nursing home, about one mile away, to deliver 200 hand-made Valentine’s Day cards. When we arrived, Mrs. P got down to the kids’ level and talked to them about what to expect inside the home, and gave tips on how to interact with sick people. She encouraged the students to make eye contact, to not give up if interaction didn’t happen right away, and to not be afraid!

I was so proud of the kids. To see them in action was the best Valentine’s Day gift I could have received. Love was definitely in the air. But I had mixed feelings as I talked with some of these elderly folks – because I saw so much sadness and loneliness. As I looked into their eyes, I wondered what their journey in life had been.

After the children handed out the cards, they’d wait for a reaction, sometimes not knowing what to do when they received no response. Little Sofia was so persistent with one man, who looked straight ahead the whole time she was talking. But she didn’t give up, and eventually he turned to her and broke into tears. Then he started conversing with her and you couldn’t pull her away!

By the end of the hour the nursing staff was thanking us for coming, almost begging us to come back. The patients were so in need of company and stimulation, and our visit made the whole building come alive.

I wonder how many of these patients have loved in their lifetime. I came home and thought long and hard about this. Then I decided not to buy any gifts for my kids this year (I've always done something very small). I wanted to share with them what my experience was in the nursing home and build on the importance of love and relationships. Really now, how much do our kids really need? Not another gift, that is for sure! They need to be taught the importance of loving and giving – to the very end!

As I left the nursing home I noticed this saying on the bottom of the dry erase board hanging in the hallway: 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Yes, this lesson would be my Valentine for my children this year.

(Our family had a sweet time this morning. They got what I was saying as I explained that many people are not fortunate enough to live with family or in a nice place, in their last years of life. We prayed together and then off we all went in different directions – taking with us a gift that money cannot buy.)

Mrs. P encourages creativity in a way that I love. It gives each kid a chance to express themselves artistically. This year they were asked to make unique Valentine's boxes - and unique they were! Above is Abby's box, which she worked long hard hours at home, getting it just right!

20 comments:

momrn2 said...

Ack! Now why did you have to go and make me cry??!

I have a special place in my heart for the elderly. I have a very special place in my heart for my children and family. When the two mix...there is nothing quite like it!!

We, as a society, need to have the generations "collide" more often! It would do us all more good than we know!!

What a beautiful and touching post!

Happy Valentine's Day!

AnneMarie said...

what a super idea!! I remember doing this with my class as a child...
I will have to do this with the home down the street from us :)
My kids will get a kick out of doing for others- they always do!!

OKGardners said...

You truly "get it" when it comes to dealing with people. I love that the next generation you are raising are "getting it" also.

I can think of nothing worse than growing old and not being valued by anyone. It only takes a minute to make a special memory with an older person. You could see the pleasure in the lady's face as she was surrounded by those 3 kids. By the way, your daughter has the most loving and kind eyes. (Just like her Mom!)

Keep up the Lessons in Life, dear. Our youth need the lessons - and so do their parents.

Betty in Oklahoma

Mrs. B. said...

Positively beautiful.
And I love Abby's box. What a creative, talented girl she is! :)
(I linked to a simliar post posted by my sister in law on my blog today...check it out when you have time.)
Happy V-Day!!! :)

Sincerely Anna said...

A few times a year our church has something called Salt Sunday and instead of having a regular worship service we divide into small groups to visit places like nursing homes in our community. I love this so much, just seeing what a boost it gives the nursing staff especially. That's so great that you took time to talk about your experience with your kids this morning. Happy Valentine's Day!

Come on over to my blog today - I have a giveaway goin' on!

Jen said...

I love her box...great creativity!
I always enjoyed going into the Nursing Home when my grandpa was there.....so many stories.

Tarrah said...

What a beautiful thing to do with the kids. I'm just about crying. What a blessing that one of the girls didn't give up on that man, he will never forget that day I'm sure.

see you there! said...

What a beautiful lesson. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this.

Darla

Lis Garrett said...

Oy - I have a lump in my throat. My husband's grandmother is 101 and suffers from dementia. She rarely remembers her family and when she does, her memories are decades old. She has no clue who I am or who my children are, and she thinks of Ian as a perpetual 4 year old. But she is lucky that she has generations of family who visit on a regular basis; so of her companions have no one, and it is so heartbreaking.

Julie said...

Our home school group did this very thing in December. We gave away hand-made cards at a nursing home near our church and sang Christmas carols for the residents.

The elderly people there were so grateful, and our kids got a taste of giving some REAL love.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Chris @ Come to the Table said...

What a wonderful day!


Your daughter's box is adorable!

Nadine said...

There is nothing more loving than visiting the elderly and bringing joy and smiles to them. I remembered when my kids school did this they were just as blessed as the lovely people they visited.

~j~ said...

I just loved this post Sandy.. this was a very gentle reminder with a very powerful message and something I have already shared several times over today. Thank-you so deeply for this.

Miss Abby, i love everything about your box in particular the color of the water and the orange of the fish!Excellent choice.

blessings to your family,
~j~

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hi, Sandy, what a sweet story with the girls going to the nursing home. I used to do that as a youngster too & it was always so depressing. You just can't imagine someone living like that, away from family, but I suppose sometimes it is necessary. Glad your girls cheered them up for the day.

Love those heart-shaped plates you used last year! Those are beautiful.

Happy Valentines week!
xo,
Rhoda

Alana said...

Hi Sandy,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. That book by Lynn Hybels really is good, isn't it? I plan to read it again sometime soon.

Love this post. What an amazing story, I imagine you are very proud of those kids for stepping up. Thanks for sharing!

Stephanie said...

This is just what I needed to read tonight, thank you!
Stephanie :)

ValleyGirl said...

I'm ba-a-ack!!

What a beautiful time those kids and seniors must have had! I think it's so admirable that Mrs. P told them what to expect and how to handle it. She is, indeed, an amazing teacher! What a great lesson in hospitality (I can see why she's a favourite of yours, too!!) for the school kids and your family as well.

Sunnispace said...

Wow - what an amazing experience for your children and for the seniors they visited. That is SUCH a fantastic idea and one that I might have to steal. Thanks so much for the inspiration! What a blessing!

Apron Thrift Girl said...

Another heart felt beautiful post Sandy! Your children are so blessed by the life lessons you are teaching them. Do you live near Grants Pass at all? We are planning to drive down to California again this year and I would just love to have a cup of tea with you. We always stop in Grants Pass for some fantastic thrifting.

THE TATTERED NEST said...

bless you and your little kidlets! It sounds like you made someone's day!