Monday, March 19, 2007

Breakfast in Appreciation of the Elderly

While speaking of older people, I would also say a word to the young, to invite them to remain close to the elderly. Dear young people, I urge you to do this with great love and generosity. Older people can give you much more than you can imagine. The Book of Sirach offers this advice: “Do not disregard what older people say, because they too have learnt from their parents” (8:9); “Attend the meetings with older people. Is there one who is wise? Spend time with him” (6:34); for “wisdom is becoming to the elderly” (25:5). -Pope John Paul II (Letter to the Elderly, 1999)

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3 years ago, when I was in charge of the youth in my parish, Fr. Francis Xavier, the then parish priest asked us or organize something to show our appreciation for the elderly as we journeyed through Lent. The result is the Breakfast in Appreciation of the Elderly which is seeing it's third incarnation this year.

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As I am no longer in charge of the youth and the new leader is not inclined to carry on this tradition, Mark and the altar servers have taken up the challenge instead. God bless them. This effort is meant to show to these elderly in our parish that we young people appreciate them and love them, appreciate all that they have done for us and love. In Asian society, this is very much the norm, but as industrialization and modernization creeps in, some of this filial piety is becoming lost.

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In the past, great respect was shown to the elderly. “Great was once the reverence given to a hoary head”, says Ovid, the Latin poet.(13) Centuries earlier, the Greek poet Phocylides had admonished: “Respect grey hair: give to the elderly sage the same signs of respect that you give your own father”.(14)

And what of today? If we stop to consider the current situation, we see that among some peoples old age is esteemed and valued, while among others this is much less the case, due to a mentality which gives priority to immediate human usefulness and productivity. Such an attitude frequently leads to contempt for the later years of life, while older people themselves are led to wonder whether their lives are still worthwhile.
-Pope John Paul II (Letter to the Elderly, 1999)
During the 3 weeks leading to the event, registration booths were opened at the Church entrance after Mass so that we could estimate the number of people attending. Much background work was carried out by Mark and his servers as well as the other groups in the parish who have generously consented to assist in this effort. The Chinese and Tamil youth groups had agreed to provide some food and perform for the elderly. Ignatius, our talented church musician had also agreed to play for us.

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So, after the Sunday morning Mass had ended, the people began to stream into the parish hall. Ushers were at the door ready to welcome them and thank them for graciously accepting the invitation of the altar servers and consenting to attend this breakfast held in their honour. The people were ushered to their seats and after Fr. Mark gave the benediction and said grace, the servers and helpers began to dish out the spread to the seated assembly.
As the number of older people increases, keeping pace with the rise in average life expectancy, it will become more and more important to promote a widespread attitude of acceptance and appreciation of the elderly, and not relegate them to the fringes.-Pope John Paul II - (Letter to the Elderly, 1999)

The Church still needs you. She appreciates the services which you may wish to provide in many areas of the apostolate; she counts on the support of your longer periods of prayer; she counts on your advice born of experience, and she is enriched by your daily witness to the Gospel.
“You show me the path of life,
in your presence there is fullness of life” (Ps 16:11)
-
-Pope John Paul II (Letter to the Elderly, 1999)
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On the menu was fried rice, spaghetti, 2 kinds of fried noodles (that's bee hoon for those of you who understand what it means), sandwiches, cakes and the perennial crowd favourite which was sponsored by yours truly, porridge with 'char siew' (that's barbequed pork as last week was Laetare Sunday) and an assortment of condiments. Jelly was served for dessert. Hot Milo (chocolate) and iced orange juice was served as well.

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As the people were enjoying their their meal, Ignatius played a selection of Golden Oldies and other tunes to keep the people entertained. There were also performances by the Tamil Youth, who performed a traditional Indian dance which I forgot to photograph, and the Chinese Youth, who also performed a modern dance which I did remember to photograph =)

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Last year, we invited the Parish Line Dancers to perform and they sportingly roped in the diners to dance as well. This year, several brave souls went out and danced and several less brave ones were roped in to dance with them as well. LOL!

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Here you can see Mark, being 'persuaded' to join in. Persuaded indeed. More like dragged kicking and screaming...after we had caught him.

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Well, he shook his booty nonetheless.

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The other young people present joined in the fun as well.

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Even your humble scribe was 'persuaded', in a similar manner, to join in the festivities. Some photos and even a video is rumoured to exist somewhere on the web. =) I really applaud these elderly people whose stamina on the dance floor outlasted our own.

The young gathered around to watch our efforts.

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This is their response.

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Elderly people help us to see human affairs with greater wisdom, because life's vicissitudes have brought them knowledge and maturity. They are the guardians of our collective memory, and thus the privileged interpreters of that body of ideals and common values which support and guide life in society. To exclude the elderly is in a sense to deny the past, in which the present is firmly rooted, in the name of a modernity without memory. Precisely because of their mature experience, the elderly are able to offer young people precious advice and guidance. -Pope John Paul II (Letter to the Elderly, 1999)
The elders felt that our efforts were disastrous and some instruction was needed.

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Some people were singled out for some extra tuition.

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Mark finally found someone at his proficiency level to dance with.

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Here, Mark is warning me of the dire consequences that would result should I dare to publish these photos. LOL!

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This is a very important event and is one of the highlights of my year. It is so heartening to see the joy on the faces of the elderly who are remembered and honoured in this manner. Their expressions of gratitude and appreciation really bring to life the meaning of the phrase 'it is better to give than to receive'. The food was not much, but it was the intention and the attention that touched them.
“Honour your father and mother”
11. Why then should we not continue to give the elderly the respect which the sound traditions of many cultures on every continent have prized so highly? For peoples influenced by the Bible, the point of reference through the centuries has been the commandment of the Decalogue: “Honour your father and mother”, a duty which for that matter is universally recognized. The full and consistent application of this commandment has not only been a source of the love of children for their parents, but it has also forged the strong link which exists between the generations. Where this commandment is accepted and faithfully observed, there is little danger that older people will be regarded as a useless and troublesome burden. -Pope John Paul II (Letter to the Eldery), 1999)
I would really like to thank Mark, the servers and all those whose help and participation have made this event a success. The prayers of these elderly people who are dear to Jesus will go with them and may the Good Lord reward them for their kindness.

2 comments:

bill bannon said...

Excellent and heartening report.

Mark Cephas Tan said...

haha... you just wait... you tube here I come... But thx for your help... I wouldn't have been able to do it without your counsel...