The Forgotten

by | May 11, 2014 | Helping

Sharon nervously dressed as she got ready for her first day at the nursing home. She had been given 3 uniform tops that were tangerine in color. Not her color at all, but that is what all the aids wore and so would she. Her stomach seemed to be upset and she knew that was all because of her first day on the job. It was only natural to be nervous and excited. She wanted to do so well. She put very little make-up on and just fluffed her short brown hair to give it some height. As she stood back to look at herself she laughed. “Boy, you are sure not going to impress anyone today”, she told her image in the mirror. Then Sharon grabbed her coffee mug and headed out the door to the nursing home.

As she drove she prayed and asked the Lord to be with her. She asked Him to help her be effective and compassionate with the elderly in the home. How she loved older people. That was her reason for going to work there; she wanted to make a difference. She wanted to show these people the love of Christ. This was her main objective.

As she reached the nursing home, she parked the car and took a couple of deep breaths. Yes, this was going to be a wonderful day. But nothing could have prepared her for what the day would detail. The overwhelming amount of work that was to be done was staggering. The amount of time spent with each resident was minimal to say the least. Sharon could not believe how short-handed they were and asked if everyday was like this.

Several of the aids laughed and said, “This is a good day. You should see it when we have no-shows. That is when the fun really begins.”

By three o’clock Sharon was exhausted. She could never remember a time she had felt so drained. There was still so much to be done but no time to do it. People were asking her to do things for them and she found it impossible to get the time to do them. — There was something else that was bothering her by the end of the day. The whole place seemed to be covered with a cloud. It was something she could not explain, but there was a heaviness that seemed to blanket the whole place. — In eight hours she had made beds; given baths to 4 people; fed 5 people breakfast and lunch; and taken so many to the bathroom she had lost count. She was glad to be going home. She felt drained and so useless. This was nothing like she had expected. There was no time to get to know the people. She didn’t even have time to eat her lunch. She really wondered if she could do this.

Sharon got into the car and said a prayer. “Oh Lord, I am exhausted. I never did anything I wanted to. There was no time. Is this where you want me? What can I do besides run all day to help these people?” There were no answers to her questions. She had no idea if she would even go back tomorrow.

Sharon took her frustration out on her family. Not the thing to do. She tried to explain how bad it was, but they just looked at her without any understanding. How could they understand? They had no idea what went on over there. How could they? Sharon took a much-needed shower and scrubbed her skin so hard it was red. She was angry. But, who was she angry at? Once again she prayed. She only felt unrest and depressed.

Bedtime came early for her that night, for she knew what to expect the next day. She had decided to give it a week and if she still felt so overwhelmed she would quit.

The alarm went off and Sharon hit he snooze button to get just a few more minutes rest. After the second time of hitting the snooze she knew she had to get up and get ready for work. She willed herself from the bed. Every muscle in her body seemed to hurt. Could she do this? Why should she do this? She had never worked so hard in her life. This was not what she wanted. She wanted to make a difference.

Sharon went to her knees and prayed. “Oh Lord, I need your direction. Can I make a difference here? I want to help these people. I want to show them you. But, how can I? There is no time to do anything.”

Sharon dressed and sat to read her Bible before going to work. She was reading in the book of Galatians. As she read chapter 6 verse 9 seemed to be speaking directly to her. She read it out loud. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Yes! She would not give up. It was her hearts desire to help the elderly and she would.

Sharon pulled into the parking lot with a new attitude. She would work hard and show the love of Christ to all she came in contact to even it be for a minute. She smiled as she walked into the home. It was only 6:45 am so she was early and had time to stop and talk to some of the residents. She liked that.

Once again she noticed the heaviness in the air. The people were already being lined up in the hall for breakfast, which was not served until 8:00. So they sat and waited. Sharon felt such love for these people. She really cared about them.

There was no time to think for the day was as busy as yesterday. One thing was different though. She was not as frazzled and took time to speak to the residents. She was learning names and made sure each one got a smile. She would say a prayer for those who she took care of. A hard day, yes, but a much better day.

Sharon worked at the home and loved it. The work was so hard but the people were such a blessing. There was such wisdom that came from these precious people. Many pastors in the area came to have services with the residents and they loved this. Those who were able would go to chapel and this made their day. It was on such an occasion that Sharon took one resident she had become very close to down to the chapel. The other aids told her not to bother for Nellie did not know the time of day. But, Sharon ignored them and wheeled her down. In the months that she had worked there she had never heard Nellie say a word. Nellie never spoke, never acknowledged that she understood anything that was said to her. Many of the aids would talk over her, and Sharon always felt this to be wrong. All these precious people deserved to be treated with dignity and respect.

The chapel was full of residents waiting for the pastor. The head nurse told Sharon to stay and help with the people. She loved that for she also enjoyed chapel. They always started by singing some old gospel favorites. The peoples’ faces would light up and their eyes would sparkle as they sang unto the Lord. It was when they were singing ‘Amazing Grace’ that Sharon heard the most beautiful voice that filled the room. She looked around to see who it was and to her astonishment Nellie was singing. She never missed a beat. Her face was lifted up and her eyes moist. How beautifully she sang. Tears rolled down Sharon’s face as she listened to Nellie praise the Lord. She now understood that Nellie could speak. Nellie understood everything that was going on around her. But, she chose to be silent and did not make any attempt to communicate with others. She was hurt. She was well aware that this is where she would be until she died and the pain inside her was too much. But, here in the Chapel where she felt the Lord’s presence, she let herself go and sang unto Him with all her being.

Sharon never heard Nellie speak again after that day. It was a few short weeks later that Nellie went home to be with the Lord.

Sharon now understood so much more. The precious people understood why they were there and that they would never leave. The tragedy of this was that so many were left there and forgotten. No visitors came to see them. They were left there to die. The people in the home knew this and the depression was so strong there that one could feel it. That was the heaviness Sharon always felt when she walked in the door.

Sharon found out that working at the home was one of the best and most rewarding jobs she had ever done. It was not so much what she had done for the people but what the people had done for her. God had opened her eyes to see that all of His children are important and need to be treated with respect and dignity.

Sharon quit working at the home several months after Nellie passed away. The administrator of the home informed her that she was no longer allowed to use her lunch break to read the Bible to the residents and she could no longer pray for them when they asked her to. So she resigned and started to volunteer her services to the home. This was on her time not the Home’s. For several years she would go over there twice a week and read God’s Word to the residents and just be their friend. Things never really changed over there. The people were still not treated the way they deserved to be, but Sharon learned that God was in charge, not man, and He loved each and every one of them and He would be with them. He would use her as an instrument to do His will if she were willing and she was. She learned from those precious people an important lesson in life. Everyone is important, not to be discarded and forgotten. There is a lot of wisdom under their grey hair if one only takes the time to listen. Sharon discovered this poem and it is so perfect for the way so many of the forgotten feel.

SITTIN’ IN THE HALLWAY — By Margaret Maxwell.
People who don’t know us
Invariable treat older people as “funny”
They see our outside as ancient
And refuse to address the inside-
Which contains this vibrant, passionate person,
Much the same as we always were.

I think I am still cute.
But they don’t SEE cute.
Strangers hardly see me at all
But, if I have lived as Jesus taught-
Which glued nice people to me–
They will look INTO me, not AT me.

Sharon Niese


The Forgotten