On Sunday, I had the opportunity to deliver the message to both worship services at a United Methodist Church in North Texas. I had been invited to speak about navigating old age and the role of the church.
I sat on the front pew during the hymns and prayers. I delighted in the handful of precious kids who made their way to the steps for the children’s sermon. But it was not until I stood up and faced the congregation to give the message that I noticed the group of youth sitting together in the balcony. I had to smile to myself because it brought back memories of my own youth, sitting away from the authoritative glances of elders.
During the message, I found myself gazing up at the balcony almost as often as I looked into the eyes of the older folks sitting in the pews below. Taking it all in, I reminded the congregation that the aging process was designed by God. We are intended to be connected to each other, generation to generation.
As I told heartfelt stories about older adults who had impacted my life, I began to notice several elderly folks dabbing their eyes with crumpled tissues. Before I finished, I saw a few teens brush tears from their cheeks, too.
I knew it wasn’t because of my speaking ability. It was because stories have a way of moving people to think and feel differently.
When we really listen to each other’s life stories, our perceptions are changed. The frail, white-haired widow becomes the adventurous woman of her youth who once rode to the Chicago World’s Fair in the rumble seat of a Model A. Similarly, the teenager with three piercings in one ear is realized as a gifted music teacher for inner-city children on a summer mission trip.
By sharing life stories, we begin to see that the fears and longings of a teenager are not so unlike those of a frail great-grandmother.
In the balcony or in the pews below, we are all children of God.