A Place at the Table

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During my two years as an IVC volunteer, I served at Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, an organization dedicated to providing friendship and relieving loneliness among seniors. Years later, I am still involved there as a volunteer. There is a beautiful motto to guide all who work with isolated and lonely elders: “Flowers before Bread.” This means that love, dignity and beauty are as essential to our lives as our physical needs. Bringing love and beauty is what we do through visiting our elders in their homes, taking them out to celebrations of life, and becoming their friends. After every party, they leave with a fresh flower to take home: usually a rose, our symbol.

Jesus would have fit right into Little Brothers. He seemed to have always enjoyed celebrations (weddings) and meals (Passover) with his friends. I like to imagine that there was always room at His gatherings. I thought of this as I kept trying to schedule outings with Edna, one of my assigned elders. Though I would offer to take her out, she often just wanted me to visit at her place. So, sharing a lunch I had picked up, consisting of her favorite sandwich, became a familiar pattern in our friendship. We would eat from the to-go packaging that is common to take-out eateries. At one of our visits, she commented that she had no matching set of dishes for her table. All the elders get a Christmas gift in December. So that Christmas I arranged for Edna to receive place settings through the Little Brothers Gift Program.

When I arrived in January for a visit, she sat at her dining room table with the biggest grin. There, for us to use for our take-out lunch, were the four place settings of her new dishes around the table. All of them were arranged as artfully as in any store. But this surprise was not just for me. She told me that at each meal, she sits in a different chair before her new place settings. Then at the next meal, she moves to a new chair and circulates all around the table until all the settings are used. She washes them as she goes and sets them out and starts all over.

Dignity and beauty before sustenance. All of our elders have a place at our organization’s table. But they make a place at their table for us everyday by opening up their hearts to us. It isn’t about the bread we break together—it is the love, trust and friendship. Jesus knew that we do not live by bread alone. Our elders know that, too.

Vicky Risacher is a member of the Regional Council for the Chicago Chapter of IVC. She divides her volunteer time between visiting Elders, singing at Old St. Patrick’s Church and assisting visitors to Chicago at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

12 Responses to “A Place at the Table”

  1. Mary Lou Miller

    Thank you for your beautiful story. It is a lovely reminder. Mary Lou (Spiritual Reflector in No. VA)

    Reply
    • Pat Connelly

      Vicki, I felt like I was with you as I gazed at the Lovely smile on dear Edna’s face as she showed off her wonderful gift of matching dishes. At CROSSWAY COMMUNITY, an Educational program with a residential component for Single Women with babies, we are aware that most of our young women have not been exposed to family nicities
      at meal time. We tried to always have proper place settings, when possible a few flowers on the table, and and as much as possible a show of manners so that the Moms will learn as they teach their children. The feed back is so positive. Often a Mom will comment that they never had family sit down together. Our Thanksgiving
      was the “first time experience” expressed one young woman.

      Reply
    • Pat Connelly

      Vicki, I felt like I was with you as I gazed at the Lovely smile on dear Edna’s face as she showed off her wonderful gift of matching dishes. At CROSSWAY COMMUNITY, an Educational program with a residential component for Single Women with babies, we are aware that most of our young women have not been exposed to family nicities
      at meal time. We tried to always have proper place settings, when possible a few flowers on the table, and and as much as possible a show of manners so that the Moms will learn as they teach their children. The feed back is so positive. Often a Mom will comment that they never had family sit down together. Our Thanksgiving
      was the “first time experience” expressed one young woman.

      Reply
  2. Elizabeth Clifford

    Thank you for bringing Edna the joy and dignity she deserves. How wonderful that she is loved in this tangible way!

    Reply
  3. Marilyn Errington

    I could picture the scene in Edna’s apartment as she set the table for her welcome guest. What a wonderful sight! Prayers for your work in this most needed ministry. ME
    Maumee, ohio

    Reply
  4. Kathy Simisky

    Really nice story, Vicky Thanks for sharing! Where is this organization out of?
    Kathy

    Reply
    • Vicky R.

      Hi…Little Brother -Frinds of the Elderly originated in France after WWII. There are several chapters in the USA. The Chicago chapter serves 1200 elders in Cook County. More info can be found by Googling Little Brothers in Chicago, IL.
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Vicky R.

      Reply
  5. jeanie sweeney

    I love this sharing. Just ike Jesus does it, a story has such impact on my heart. !

    Reply
  6. Linda Bennett

    Your reflection touched my heart. How wonderful that you are able to feed Edna with love and caring, which is what those place settings represent to her, not to mention your companionship at Edna’s table.

    Spiritual Reflector – Minneapolis

    Reply
  7. Louise M Sandberg

    Someone just called me with a set of dishes. She wants me to use them at Love & Lunch in Hempstead, NY. She said they are yellow and white. We usually use paper plates since we have no access to dishwasher there. Your story is inspiring me to possibly honor her desire and take the dishes home to wash in my dish washer. She also said if someone needs the dishes, give them. This is my favorite kind of giver, who has ideas for what they want, but open themselves to the needs presented. Dining with the lonely is such an important and loving service. Mother Theresa said that loneliness is our poverty in our rich country. sharing our love is our wealth. Thank you for being such a wonderful example of listening service and responding.

    Reply
  8. Liz McMahon

    A beautiful story! Thank you for your service and sharing the wisdom and inspiration of your time and friendship with Edna.

    It’s often the small details and thoughtful simplicity that foster a deeper interaction with another. The gift of dishes to share a special meal with a friend brought forth dignity and beauty, what a blessing on the time together for both of you. Your thoughtful request transformed faith into action and I’m sure will have a multiplier effect in Edna’s life.

    Reply

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