Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mike: Wrap Up on the Fifth Commandment

I love what you shared about an "Ethical Will." In practice, it should strengthen the link between generations and conserve wisdom for ongoing use. This is the kind of project I would consider introducing to our church members.

In fact, your rabbi's program leads me to try to imagine other ways a community of faith might help people start to practice the Fifth Commandment.

(1) Build prayer for parents into the ongoing worship life of the church. Nothing penetrates mind and heart better than something engrained in weekly services. Prayer, from my perspective, also may better align us with the purposes of God.

(2) Find those who are actively engaged in appropriate support of their parents. Encourage and help them to frame their stories. Share the stories with the community of faith through print media, the web and (on occasion)public testimony. Such stories challenge and inspire the rest of us.

(3) Create support structures for those who honor their father and mother. For example, providing care in one's home can become exhausting. Caregivers often experience social isolation. Small support groups might be useful. Perhaps a church or synagogue might train "sitters," who can spell the primary caregivers from time to time.

(4) Face up to the reality that many parents will not be honored by their children. They will need another family. Very well. Church and synagogue might step, at least partially, into the role. Our own church keeps a minister on staff. Her primary assignment is to befriend older adults, walk alongside them in every way possible, and help them find their way. For example, she has spent a great deal of time with senior adults, assisting them as they try to decide among the numerous medical plan options associated with government health care. She functions as a dutiful daughter to them.

I think we may be approaching a time of opportunity, as the first generation of baby boomers enters stage one retirement. I envision recruiting retired teachers, lawyers, physicians, and such to become surrogate care-givers to those more aged. Even a few such persons per church or synagogue would make an enormous difference for the good to many isolated, elderly parents.

Of course, those who served in such ways would no doubt develop relationships. Conversations would follow. The "wisdom" of the elderly might well begin to flow acros the generational lines. We might even learn not to fear old age, or at least to fear it less.

With a bit more reflection, we (or our readers) might come up with additional suggestions.

Rami, as we continue to work through the Ten Commandments and (later) the Sermon on the Mount, I wonder if we should try to wrap up each segment with such suggestions.

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