Elder parishioners at my church are truly God's gift to me. I have found friendship with some of them, especially widows and older divorced women, and they always seem to offer consoling words, support, wisdom and kindness. Some of them even send me notes in the mail which is a treasure!
In the little things, the big things, and even day to day, I have learned to value these elders at my parish. I see them at the Rec, at Panera, at Rivers Edge (a community organization with prayer events), and around my town. In small ways, some of them watch out for me, lend advice, and offer stability of friendship and support -- in ways that young people don't always provide.
They invite me to things, provide a hug of encouragement every now and then, and make me feel like I can count on them. They have a welcoming presence. If they say they are willing to talk to me or lend support, they will. That's not always true of young people, I've learned, and being true to your word matters in relationships.
Elder parishioners never seem to abandon you in difficult times. They lend a word or a hand to support you. They respond if you want to meet with them to talk. They've been instrumental in keeping me moving forward.
Maybe it's because they get it. They get how hard life is and how difficult it is to survive day to day. Maybe they see an opportunity to provide wisdom to light the way. Maybe they see an aspect of themselves in me slightly and think they can help. I love hearing their stories. Some have been through so much and gotten through it with God. It gives me hope that God will provide for me too.
Interestingly, all of them are secular people. People who worked in the secular world, led a secular life, and never worked for the Church -- but volunteer and give of their time to the Church in their retirement. These are some of the kindest, supportive, self-giving, and open people I've ever met. It just goes to show that some of the best disciples are in the secular world -- it's inspiring to me, who is as well.
In any case, thank you elder parishioners...thank you for the gift of your presence that you've given to me. I hope more young people embrace and find solace and support in what you offer!