Respecting one's neighbors, old and young

Originally Appeared in : 9821-10/11/18

Did you ever see the episode of Mysteries at the Museum about Beethoven’s metronome? Historians and performers couldn’t figure out why he wrote so many of his classic compositions with such fast tempos.


I’ve got my suspicions, though. It was probably because he was nervous about performing for the folks at the assisted living facility just up the road.


That was the thought that ran through my head as Jesse went from allegro to presto on his rendition of the “Mickey Mouse Club” theme for the octogenarians living two doors down from our parish. Especially when he got into the “M-I-C-K-E-Y...M-O-U-S-E” portion of the selection. It played out like what I imagine text message abbreviations to sound like: “MKY MS.”


The same was true for Simon’s last song, the theme to “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Had poor Mr. Fred had to sing over Simon’s keying, the lyric sheet would have looked like this:T’sabeautifuldayintheneighborhoodAbeautifuldayforaneighbor...Would...youbemine?...Could...youbemine?”


Two songs earlier, an unexpected shout of “Oh, he’s playing piano” from a concert goer on the front row (technically, there was only a front row, unless you count the rest of us sitting in the dining room-- the “back” row) startled Simon and caused an impromptu pause during “Onward Christian Soldiers.” 


Guess if we’re hoping to become the next iteration of The Partridge Family, we’re going to have to work on that. 


By the time he and his brother broke into “Softly and Tenderly,” the shouts of “Oh they’re playing a hymn” were met with continued playing over wry grins.


Noah rounded out the morning show with “Edelweiss,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Country Roads,” with the final two songs garnering not only 2-year-old Isaac’s approval but also his faint vocal assist from the dining hall since I had told Isaac to “whisper.”


Following an encore playing of “Chopsticks” by Jesse and Noah, this time with the effects button pressed down hard to make it sound like Chopsticks in space, the trio took one last bow before Jesse passed out Toast-Chee crackers to everyone in the assembly (including the son of one resident who repeatedly said, “No, thank you” only to be rebuffed by Jesse’s shaking head).


The boys spent the ride home, and portions of the rest of the morning, critiquing every little miscue in their playing. I, however, kept reinforcing the fact that their elderly audience members were less interested in perfection and more impressed that three boys would spend a Saturday morning entertaining old folks instead of watching cartoons.


The inspiration for this Von Trapp-esque trip was all Magan’s. In a former life, Magan was a geriatric nurse who worked at nursing homes and with in-home healthcare providers. It was her passion. Anyone who has watched Magan work with the elderly couldn’t have helped but to smile and/or cry, because she always treated her patients with a level of love and dignity normally reserved for close kin.


“My thinking always was, they were once somebody’s baby,” Magan said, “and my hope is that when my babies get to be their age somebody will treat them the same way.”
Magan was unknowingly heeding many verses of Scripture that call us to care for the elderly, and also planting the seeds for our children to do the same.


Psalm 71:9 says, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails,” while 1 Timothy 5:1-2 adds, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.”


In an era where mission fields are considered to be far off places on different continents or in different time zones, we shouldn’t forget those home missions that can, as we showed our children, be literally two doors down from our church.


We’ll just have to make sure Beethoven isn’t in the audience the next time Jesse plays, “Joyful, Joyful,” because ole Ludwig is liable to flip his wig when he hears Jesse’s slow-jam variation.


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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