Serving: The Desire That Never Grows Old


Both young and old benefit when the elderly are encouraged to share their wisdom and experience.

While riding the city bus one day, I witnessed a simple event that touched my heart. As the bus doors opened at one of the scheduled stops, an elderly man labored to climb aboard. After he boarded, standing with the help of his cane, he reached into his pocket and took out his fare. He then took one of the seats in front that are designated for those who are elderly or have disabilities.

Several stops later, after all the seats in the bus had been taken, a young mother with a baby in her arms and a toddler at her side stepped aboard. Before she could make her way toward the back of the bus, I watched the elderly gentleman gently reach out and touch her arm, motioning for her to take his seat. I immediately wanted to say, “No, you need your seat. Please take mine instead.” But as I saw the young mother’s face soften, I knew she would accept the offer from the elderly gentleman, not just because she needed to sit down but, more important, she knew he wanted to serve.

The young mother thanked the man graciously, and he arose from his seat. For the duration of the ride, he held tightly to the metal pole in the aisle of the bus. There was a quiet dignity about him, and the glow on his face reminded me that the desire to serve never grows old.

Many who are younger often take the opportunity to remember elderly friends with fruit baskets, lawn care, and so on. These are excellent ways to taste of the sweetness of service; yet I believe it is also important to let the elderly feel needed by us. One of the best ways we can do this is to invite them to share with us their experiences and their wisdom.

I remember spending hours as a girl listening to my grandmother tell me what times were like when she was my age. Her testimony of the gospel strengthened my own as she taught me lessons I could not have been taught by anyone else. I loved to see handcrafted items she had made over the years, to hear about her experiences in school, and to listen to what her dates were like when she was a teenager. I watched her crochet, and though I never learned how to do it myself, I did learn the value of talents and the importance of using them. I believe my grandmother’s life was enriched when she saw that I valued her insights and benefited from her wisdom.

My grandmother was my friend. The night she passed away, I held her hand, and though she could not speak, I felt her love and I thanked Heavenly Father for the beautiful lessons of love and life she had taught me over the years.

Elderly people have both a desire to be needed and a desire to serve. How grateful I am for the service given to me by my grandmother as well as by elderly friends who have influenced me for good. In observing them I have learned that being served can be a great blessing and that serving others often brings even greater joy.

[illustration] Illustration by Daniel Lewis

Sharon Barber is a member of the Maplewood Ward, Syracuse Utah South Stake.