Jane Brennan Snodgrass will turn 70 on July 11th this year. Her day starts at 6.30 am with reading her Bible and praying. She then prepares some coffee for herself and cooks breakfast for her husband Dan. The couple then have breakfast in their sun room. They sometimes take a walk outside and watch the hummingbirds, Orioles and deer and “whatever else shows up.”
Jane and Dan live a simple life in their beautiful house in Lathrop, Missouri. The town has all of 2,000 people (That’s how many people live in my neighbourhood).
I met Jane back in 2012 when she was visiting her son’s family in India. Wow! Being old and being a grandmother can be so cool! That was my first thought when I shook her hands. She was dressed in denim shorts, white sneakers and a multi-colour cotton half-sleeve shirt. She was easily the happiest woman in the room. “I’m old but my head says I’m young,” she told me once. Till her son’s family was living in my hometown Indore, our paths crossed upon all her visits to India.
We are friends on Facebook and that’s how I get to have a glimpse of her day-to-day life. The things she pursues, the way she pursues them, her worldviews, her farm life and animals, and her grand love for her grandchildren – she amazes me. She is definitely the proverbial ‘kind Momma’ in those Southern Hallmark movies that I have binge-watched in Christmas months.
“I grew up in Schenectady, New York. My dad got transferred and we moved to Indiana. I met Dan at Purdue University, we got married. Then I began my job as an interior decorator for an architect and building firm in Indianapolis, Indiana. We moved to Missouri and I started working at school. I knew nothing about farm life until I met Dan! I lived in the city so it was like a foreign world when we moved to the farm. At first it was lonesome being out in the country but now I love it! I decided to get my teaching degree and taught at the elementary and high school for 20 years. Now I am retired and love it,” she shares when I ask her if she was always the Southern Farm girl from the movies.
Jane is an avid porcelain painter too for the last 15 years. She makes notecards with flowers, does watercolour painting and has recently picked up crocheting.
“Dan made me an Oriole feeder, the birds are so much fun to watch. Unusual that they eat grape jelly and oranges. My hummingbird feeder was made by my friend Lynn,” she says often marvelling at the small things.
The woman who writes a poem every day
Muriel Stephenson is a single woman who turned 97 this January. She grew up in many parts of Ontario, Canada. Her father, Rev. George Stephenson, was a United Church minister and they moved about every three or four years.
She now lives in a Retirement Home in Brantford, Ontario. Muriel spends a good part of her day reading her Bible and other books and doing Word Search puzzles. Before the lockdowns began, she went to Celebration Church on Sundays and to a prayer meeting on Wednesdays at the church. “Before the pandemic I played the violin in churches and social gatherings for several years but I am not playing nowadays because of my age and difficulty holding the violin,” she says.
She lived in India from 1952 to 1989. “I taught school for a few years in Indore and then went into evangelistic work in villages after moving to Ratlam,” she shares. She also taught violin in Indore Christian College. That’s when she met my Dad and they became such good friends. Ever since, she has been his mentor and spiritual mother.
What fascinates me about Miss Muriel is this stubborn hope she has. She pens down one poem every day in honour of her Lord Jesus Christ. She sends some of her poems to our family a few times every week.
Here’s a poem she wrote on her birthday –
It is my birthday once again,
Now I’m Ninety-seven,
I know for sure that when I die
I will enter heaven.
I give thanks to Father God
For His amazing love,
He is so merciful and kind,
Gives wisdom from above.
I give thanks for family
Who always pray for me,
I’m grateful for the friends I have,
I know they’ll faithful be.
I’ll share God’s love, read His word,
It is my trusty sword,
I pray that in the year ahead
I’ll glorify the Lord.
© Muriel Stephenson
Subhash Chandra is a retired college professor who lives in the by-lanes of Damdam area in Kolkata. He has been living alone for many years now in a small flat. When he read about COVID-19, he decided to call the cops. The police entered his house thinking he was ill. Instead, he handed them a cheque of Rs 10,000 for COVID-19 relief. He didn’t know how online transactions worked, so he wrote a cheque. Subhash spends a major part of his pension on medicines, yet he felt so compelled to help.
Jane, Muriel, Subhash are not famous people. They are just people. They are nobodies. We – the millennials and Gen-Z – owe them so much.
The way our world functions – anyone who ceases to contribute in the food chain is considered ‘unproductive’. Ever since the pandemic hit, governments and corporate bodies around the world had a covert protocol – save the young. The more I read about it, the more it pained me.
A particular news from Italy just absolutely unnerved me. It was about an Old Age Nursing Home where there was not a single alive soul left. When the police finally reached, every inmate of the nursing home had died. I don’t know whose fault was it. I don’t know if the inmates unanimously decided to send the doctors away or decided to not call for help at all, since Italy was struggling for medical aid at the time. I don’t know if their calls were left unanswered or if the staff looked away.
What matters is those lives were important. These lives – the grey-haired, thinning, wrinkled skinned people – are important. They are the reason why we have roofs above our heads, our education and jobs. They have made us what we are today. Our very life is laid on the foundation of their innumerable sacrifices.
Jesus hung out with the nobodies
Along with senior citizens, there’s also the meeker population of the world – the underprivileged, the migrant workers, the poor, the hungry, the ordinary, the mourning. These are nobodies too. One of the several peculiar things about Christ was He mostly hung out and ate with the nobodies. He meant it when He said –
“Blessed are the those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”
In contrast with how Jesus treated the nobodies, the corporate world has made us believe that the seniors are collaterals. They are done with their contributions. Our advertisers today cater to the largest demographic in the world – Us – those born between 1980 and 1998 in affluent families. You want to succeed in business? Find a product that caters to the affluent millennials or Gen-Z. That’s the obvious protocol.
I want to assure you of this – we will have to pay this price. If we have chosen to neglect our seniors and our meek, we shall be judged. The Lord knows we need the wisdom and love of our seniors much more than they need ours.
As per the worldly standards, they used to be somebodies as long as they were young. That means, 30 years from now, we will all be nobodies too. So where’s the hope? If we treat our seniors right today, will we get the same treatment? I don’t know. We may not.
Yet, as a Christian I believe every soul matters. For Jesus, every soul of every nobody mattered.
When Jesus sat on that mountain top to address the nobodies, he had their precious souls on His mind. Google ‘Sermon on the mount’ and find out for yourself. You will see that in the eyes of Jesus, you and I will always be an important somebody, and so will our seniors be.
To paraphrase that specific sermon in the millennial language –
Blessed are the nobodies, For they will be somebodies one day!