For three years now, my family has taken our neighbor, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, to church with us, fostering a deep and cherished friendship. Time and again, I have been blown away by his fearless spirit. Despite the health issues and challenges that come with growing older, I have never once seen him crushed. Whenever he enters a room, everyone immediately lights up with the laughter and joy that he brings wherever he goes. If my neighbor has taught me one thing, it has been that old age is one of the most important stages of life, where one is able to share a special kind of courage with others and attest to the sacredness and beauty of life.
Unfortunately, the modern world is afraid, rather than proud, of advanced age. Over and over, from those in their families to those in the media and politics, elderly men and women have been told that their worries and sufferings are meaningless. The elderly are told – perhaps not always directly, but often at least implicitly – that they are past their prime, and are therefore past importance. The deprecating mindset of the modern age has led both young and old to sympathize with or even support euthanasia to “lessen the sufferings” of the elderly.
The truth is that oftentimes we do not recognize how much our own personal courage is needed in the world. Suffering has meaning – it makes us stronger and serves as a light to others who need hope. Elderly people are far from withering candles – they are shining stars that pierce the darkness fearlessly. The great pity is that a throw-away society has labeled them worthless, and that they themselves often believe it. Additionally, families often feel pressured to “do something” to stop an ailing relative’s suffering at all costs. It is wrong to inflict this incredible stress on families who sincerely want to do what is best for their loved one. The ending of a life must never be presented as an option. We might never know what beautiful consequences can come from the courage of bearing an illness. The elderly don’t need their suffering to stop – they need others to have the courage to help them carry it and stand beside them through thick and thin.
To aid the sick and elderly, I founded the youth band “Out Loud” in 2019, which serves a local hospital through music. Just the simplest gesture of love can transform someone’s day and help them to see the beauty inside themselves. In my experience, when you serve someone, you gain even more than you give. The sick and elderly have so much to give to society beyond labor or output. They share lessons of the past that help us to find our way in the present.
Through ministering to the elderly and sick at the hospital, I want to help these courageous people to see how valuable they are to society. Indeed, through my friendship with my 95-year-old neighbor, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that every sunrise is a gift – as well as every sunset.
Scholarship Essay by Emily Chaffins
UCA’s most recent Scholarship Essay Contest for High School Juniors and Seniors officially ended on May 15, 2020. While the theme has always been to explore ways to make a more caring world, our most recent Essay Contest specifically asked how they would make a more caring world in one of four categories – Children – Animals – Reforestation – Elderly. The winning essays have been posted and awards distributed.
Because there were so many impressive essays submitted from across the U.S., we decided to share many of these students’ inspiring caring actions with you in this publication. Through their essays, the students provide a refreshing insight into their minds and hearts, offering an in depth view of our world that we often overlook. They take us on a journey rich in knowledge, personal experience and creative solutions. It is our hope you will feel as informed and inspired as we do. We are proud to present to you the writings, thoughts and dreams for a more caring future through these articles.