Expecting the Unexpected

Two categories of folks in our society need a bit of extra nurturing and attention: the very young and the very old. If, like me, you are blessed to be in between these two groups on life’s journey, you probably spend time caring for one or both. And as an “in betweener” you soon learn to expect the unexpected.

Certainly children aren’t predictable, and words you wish they wouldn’t repeat can come out of their mouths in public any time, any place! I was sure I had learned all there was to know about expecting the unexpected the year I was a Cub Scout den mother. But even those darling, unpredictable eight-year-old boys, who were calm and attentive one minute and pinging off the walls the next, did little to prepare me for the volunteer work I do with older adults now.

One day I was setting up the room for the devotional hour I facilitate at an assisted living residence when a dear resident who had been coming to the group for weeks came into the room. She walked directly up to me, took both my hands in hers and said, “I will give you any amount of money to take me home.” My heart was breaking as I explained to her that I really couldn’t do that. Over her shoulder I saw the tears in the eyes of the caregiver assigned to her.

The next week I came braced for a similar difficult situation, but none occurred. In fact, one class attendee gave me a big hug as she was leaving and said, “I love you and I always have.” Now whether she means she’s loved me for the two years she’s been attending the class, or whether she momentarily thought I was her daughter or granddaughter, I’ll never know. But does it really matter? That day I left with a much lighter heart and a bounce in my step.

At the end of each class session we always sing a familiar hymn and I hand out a copy of the words to each person. One day we sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” after a lesson on “Walking in Truth.” Later, as we were in the middle of gathering prayer requests, one of the ladies happened to notice the words to the hymn on the handout in front of her. “Hey, we should sing this!” she said loudly. By the grace of the Holy Spirit I took a deep breath and said, “Sure, let’s sing it!” Not only did we sing “His truth is marching on…” more enthusiastically than we did the first time, but this time, at her suggestion, we also marched around the room—canes and walkers tapping out the rhythm! Would I have wanted to miss that by telling her we’d already sung our hymn for the day? Not on your life.

So whether you are caring for the very young or the very old, go ahead and make a “to do” list for the day but consider putting “be flexible” at the top of it. In the number two position I suggest adding “don’t miss the blessings,” because there are sure to be many of them. Bathing your efforts in prayer is always a good idea, then move forward confidently as you expect the unexpected.


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  1. This is a beautiful lesson, Nancy. When the woman offered to give you money to “take her home,” I was in tears, thinking about my dad when his Alzheimer’s forced him to leave a home he’d loved for 50 years. I was blinking tears again with “I love you and I always have” and the group marching to the second singing of a song…but this time the tears were out of laughter and joy. Again and again, you remind me to be open to all the blessings. Thank you.

  2. I would have paid money to see you and all those beautiful folks marching around the room friend! Thank you for this reminder. I needed it today.

  3. Thanks, Marylin. And I know you’ve lived through many similar moments and have more to come. Bless you.

  4. What a sweet story, brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. We’re going to be there some day ya know!! Love the image of you all marching around the nursing home to Onward Christian Soldiers! Reminds me of the time I had picked up a dear friend from a local nursing home to go pick up another dear friend (you’ve probably heard me talk about my SS teacher Millie from BV) who lived in a different nursing home. I walked in w/Evelyn and her walker, we saw Millie sitting there w/her walker ready to go to lunch. With a glint in Millie’s eye, she said to Evelyn “want to race?” Both are now with Jesus, can’t wait to race with them one day!!!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Lea Ann. That will be a great race in heaven because we will all be winners just by being there! I’m convinced that having a sense of humor is one key to a successful old age. Millie had it!

  5. Jan Keller says:

    As Lawrence Welk would have said, “Wonderful! Wonderful!”
    Thanks for adding a bright spot to my day!

  6. Thanks for reading, Jan!!

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