Appreciating the Elder Women Who Saw What I Couldn’t See

I hadn’t thought about Mrs. Dempsey for over a half-century. I was thinking about this week’s theme, remembering, when Mrs. Dempsey’s name and face popped into my mind. I remember how white and soft her hair looked compared to her tanned and weathered face. She’d lived a good while before I ever met her. She was also a person who saw something in me that I couldn’t see.

The Importance of a Caring Adult

Mrs. Dempsey was my 4-H leader when I was in the fourth grade. Each week I looked forward to going over to her house after school—not just to knit, but to soak in the extra attention she gave me even after our official meetings ended each week.  I didn’t tell her anything about my home life, but somehow, she knew I needed the steady hand of a caring adult. I never realized until now how Mrs. Dempsey helped me make it through a difficult year.

Angela was another elder woman who took me under her wings at the right time in my life. At fourteen, I looked like I was tough enough to have lived in a dumpster. But I was also fragile enough so that I could have easily been destroyed.

Angela had a small beauty shop in her home. She had placed a ‘help wanted’ advertisement in a local newspaper. She wanted someone who could do some light housekeeping a couple of hours a week in the afternoons and on Saturdays. Why she hired me I’ll never know. I do know that this kind woman took it upon herself to mentor and encourage me. Angela helped me make it through another challenging year.

We Have the Power to See Hope When Younger People Only Know Despair

As I think about it, I could easily name at least a half dozen other elder women in my life who invested in me at just the right times. These women saw hope and possibility even during times when I could only see despair.

As elders, we all have the power to see hope and possibility in others when they might not see in themselves. We all have the power to help change lives—even if we never see the results of any kindness or encouragement we might offer.

Whether we choose to formally volunteer to help others as Mrs. Dempsey did, or we just happen to recognize a younger person who needs us to walk with them for a short while, our vision and experience are needed.

My challenge to each of us (myself included) is to simply be open to using our power to help create a better future for some of the younger people who don’t always know they need us.


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