I hope the photo above brings a smile to your face as a lovely senior citizen is being loved on by a handsome young man! However, there is such a powerful story behind those smiles, that I hope you will indulge me as I share why this photo holds a special place in my heart.
When I was 5 years old, my family moved to Mattoon, where my father served as the pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church two miles east of the Dorans elevator. As I reflect over those years, it would be impossible to count the number of blessings my siblings and I derived from being raised in such a close-knit community. Members of the church were addressed as aunt or uncle even though there was no biological connection; however, we were family just the same. Upon my return to Mattoon, I have been blessed to re-connect with several members who attended the church where my father served. The photo above is one of those aunts of my childhood whose path I have been blessed to cross, Norma Pardieck.
Norma, now a resident at one of our senior living facilities, was one of the organists at St. Paul's Lutheran Church! She was always willing to substitute whenever Janet Homann, our regular organist, was ill or out of town. Mrs. Pardieck loved to play the organ and would always practice the Saturday before any service. Every time I see her now, I am blessed with the beautiful smile captured in that photo! I very proudly refer to her as my dad's church organist when introducing her to others.
One of our Community Bridges programs, Generation-2-Generation visits Mrs. Pardieck's facility each month. If she is not seated at one of the tables, I make a point to walk to her room to extend a personal invitation. Just as gracious as I remember her, she smiles at me then joins us at a table.
Last academic year, she and Kanari (pictured in photo) developed a special bond. Each visit, Kanari asked if he could be at Mrs. Pardieck's table; and they chatted back and forth as if they had known each other forever!
We are blessed Kanari and Mrs. Pardieck met during our Generation-2-Generation program. When I view these photos of the two of them, I deeply feel that very same sense of family my siblings and I were blessed to have had growing up with the aunts and uncles from my father's church.
EQUIPPING IN ACTION !!!!
My final thoughts are depicted in the photos above. Kanari and Mrs. Pardieck simply enjoyed their time together. Volumes could be written in regards to the "connections" being made when the kindergarten and third grade students from our school district visit and interact with the 200+ residents of our senior centers in Mattoon! I'm sure you will agree it's a WIN-WIN…
We all need to be loved… to be valued… to give… and receive.
Our seniors feel valued and simply LOVE on the students gathered around them each visit. Our youth feel loved and valued as they are beginning to understand PRESENCE is a gift they can give to one another.