I’m about to finish my second term as an elder at my church. The first time around I didn’t take advantage of one of the main privileges of serving. This time, with a little twist of the arm, I discovered one of the most rewarding parts of being a leader at First Presbyterian: Home-bound Communion.
Two elders get The Body of Christ “to go.” It’s in a little leather box. We meet in the church parking lot at 2:00 and head out to some elderly person’s house. You never know exactly what you’re going to find.
This past week, my partner and I made two stops.
The first was at the home of an older gentleman who had worked for the City of Raleigh for many years. I was warned that he sometimes doesn’t wear all of his clothes. Me neither; no big deal.
We actually had to crack his front door and yell out to get his attention. He was appropriately dressed but confined to a wheelchair, living in his wooden ranch alone. His wife died many years ago. We swapped war stories.
I said that it was hard to press on without your spouse. He explained to me that she was still there, just in a different sort of way. He said when he procrastinated or didn’t do what he was supposed to do, he sort of felt a gnawing. “That’s her.”
We laughed that they would be up there waiting for us at heaven’s door with a great big To Do list.
After chatting, we pulled out the bread and juice. We had fancy, tiny, silver trays for serving, but we could have used a Dixie cup. The scripture, prayer and act of breaking bread, knowing the symbolism, was what was important.
We then hit a nursing home for dementia patients. I’ll have to admit it was a bit disturbing to walk in. The door shut and locked behind us. We couldn’t get out on our own accord. I felt a bit claustrophobic.
We walked down the hall to room 125 where we met two beautiful women. One was from our church, the other was her roommate, an Episcopal. They argued a bit about whether the different denominations could take communion together. They played off of each other well, seemingly enjoying each other’s company. Sparring a bit seemed natural for them.
One asked me how old I was. When I told her 49, she said I had preserved myself well. They asked about our families and were interested in our kids. One asked if I was dating. I don’t think she was fishing for herself! She was just genuinely concerned about my happiness. She had buried two husbands, one when she still had four kids in the house. We had a lot in common.
You’d think it would be them who received the blessing that day. Certainly having visitors would brighten their day. Certainly knowing that their church family still thought of them and loved them would bring good cheer. And perhaps it did.
But what I learned to expect after the first time I filled this role was that they weren’t the recipients that day. No, it was me. I was the one who left feeling better. I saw people in what seemed to be really difficult situations laughing, showing love and appreciation, and sharing wisdom. They were asking about me. Wasn’t I the one who was supposed to be doing that?
Apparently they didn’t get the memo. Instead of taking, they doled out. Perhaps that is wisdom, something we all gain with age. Or maybe there was just something special about these folks. It seems that they have figured out that giving is better than receiving.