Orphans. The mere word conjures depressing images of tears, diapers, snotty noses and sorrowful thoughts of hungry tummies, starving hearts, and empty hands. Babies. Toddlers. Children.
But, are they the only orphans?
I think not. Let me share a story, intertwined with poetry, about Christmas Day 2010…
After attending a church service and eating a shared meal with other church goers, my son and I joined forces with another family to visit a nearby old folks home. Unfortunately my husband was called to work duty so he headed to phones and computers. My son and I headed to the nursing home attached to the backside of the hospital in our small, eastern Washington farming town.
in nursing homes.
Sometimes their feet
as they are oft forgotten
once their own kids
Now these aged, wrinkled
are just plain old.
No one tucks covers,
slips socks over toes,
or puts a thick layer
of blackberry jam
on whole wheat toast
covered in layers of butter,
cinnamon & sugar.
My friend had a list of residents who had no scheduled outings and no expected visitors coming for Christmas Day. She and her family know most of the folks as they come monthly to sing and share. My son and I? It was our first time through the doors. My little fella has a giant heart for the elderly. His best friend at church is a woman who is nearly ninety years old.
I admit, I was worried (about my reaction, about the smells, about the sadness) and anxious (to love someone in my community) and excited about Jesus (after all, it was His birthday and I thought this would be a fine non-wrapped gift to give my King).
Both families lugged boxes full of gifts and goodies. She not only got a list of residents, but she spoke with staff to discover a need that could be met with a gift for the old-timers. My son and I spent part of the previous day buying and then stuffing plastic bags with oranges, boxed raisins, fruit pies, granola bars, chocolate kisses, and crayon notes.
replace tight, orderly thoughts
and teeth soak in cups
on counters, sticky with
Hands tremble, fear
and televisions blare
in their one-room space.
Among our boxes of simple gifts were a new pair of soft slippers, a bottle of lotion that smells of honeysuckles, a fuzzy and cuddly-worthy blanket, and thirteen plastic bags, zipped and filled with snacks.
Sure, all of that stuff bought smiles. But it was the stuff of us that actually brought the love.
When those nursing home doors
kids and three adults
knocked hips and boxes and elbows,
we stepped gently,
applied band-aids to broken
that lay, barely
One man in particular, I wanted to bring home. I wondered if his children and grandchildren will let me adopt? Or do I just have to go back to the sterile facility time and again to find him as he walks the halls with his memories… memories that he proudly wears as cowboy boots, loose Wrangler jeans, a Veteran of Foreign Wars beret covered in shiny buttons, and a soft smile?
That old man
After our motley group of crooners sang Christmas carols with each resident, visited while they opened wrapping paper and plastic, my friend’s husband led us all in prayer. We did this about ten times. Smiles and hugs and tears soaked me heavy.
That old man
turned to leave
for the next
my heart strings
He took something from me that day. And I am going back to give him some more. You can count on that.
That old man
our hearts were
Sure most definitions of “orphan” include the verbiage “no parents,” “fatherless,” “motherless,” and even “adopted,” but whilst looking at the online dictionaries, I did find a definition or two that describes an “orphan” as “one lacking supervision.” And even as “a person lacking care.”
Psst, you there. Come closer. I have something to tell you… Orphans sometimes are found beneath thin skin and wrinkles. They have hungry tummies, starving hearts, and empty hands too.
And what about those wrinkles? Well, I discovered that those wrinkles actually minister to the orphan in me.
It’s February, the month of love.
What are you doing for the sake of love?