Some years ago, a ‘very elderly lady’ called Mrs Bullen, who was the last of her family, was visited regularly in her small flat by two ‘gangly, spotty, 18 year olds’. They were friends studying medicine at university and had signed up with a befriending charity. One of them, Dr Max Pemberton, now a practising psychiatrist who writes a regular newspaper column, remembers that ‘she always listened and gave sage advice, made us cups of tea and, at the end of our visit, would give us plastic bags crammed full of goodies to keep us going.’
What was so rewarding, they found, was that although they’d become volunteers with the intention of helping someone, it was a two-way street as they found Mrs Bullen helping them. He remembers that she taught them so much about life – and death. She had terminal cancer, and the matter-of-fact way she approached her death had such a profound influence on his friend that nearly 20 years later he is a consultant in community geriatrics.
Mrs Bullen’s story shows how God has a purpose for each person, whatever their circumstances and whatever their age, even those who are frail, approaching death and needing help and support. Just think – how many older people have been blessed over the years from the skills and compassion of the consultant in community geriatrics, and by the compassion of his psychiatrist friend?
Often older people tell us they’re no use any more. But God shows how valued they are in His economy, quietly fulfilling His purpose for each one. How wonderful is that!