Alberto the Great!

11376235-magic-hat-with-rabbit-ears“Old people should be seen and not heard. In some cases they shouldn’t even be seen.”

I think not!

Yet sadly, even in some Christian churches, the elderly are dismissed as being irrelevant.

Can I tell you a story? Years ago, I worked as a maintenance man in a local nursing home, which was pretty amazing, considering I have trouble telling a screwdriver from a hammer. But, that’s a story for another time.

Right now, we’re going to talk about Albert, an inmate at the home. (FYE, I called the residents, inmates). He was barely five feet tall and had thinning white hair, combed straight back. He wore his pants hiked way up, a tucked-in white dress shirt, and a pair of sunglasses, three sizes too big for his face.

The particular day in question, the Activities Director had gathered several of the inmates into the sunroom, and was boring them with stories. I think that was the only activity she knew- Boring People. Half way through her talk, Albert stood and walked across the room.

“Albert. What are you doing?” the Activities Director shrilled.

He ignored her and sat down at a piano.

“Get back to your assigned seat!”

His hands began gliding over the keys. Before you knew it, ragtime music filled the room. The other inmates clapped and swayed to the beat.

“Albert, stop that.” She rushed over and closed the piano. “Honestly. Where do you think you are? Do you think everyone wants to hear you play?”

Yes, I thought.

Obediently, Albert went back to his assigned seat and the ho-hum activity continued.

Later on, I was making my rounds; getting change from the coke machine and trading it to the men inmates for dollar bills. Don’t ask me why, but the men liked change. I saw Albert. “That was great,” I said. “Where’d you learn to play the piano like that?”

He answered in a quiet, unassuming voice. “I used to be in Vaudeville.”

“No kidding? Were you a piano player?”

He laughed and shook his head. “If you wanted to break into show business, the more you could do, the better your chances. I was a magician.”

He had my attention. I love magic.

He stood a little taller and announced, “Alberto, the Great. That’s what I called myself.”

“Can you do any tricks for me?”

Albert got some string from the nurses station. His small hands, though slowed with age, looped and twirled the twine, mystifying me and the others who had gathered. Someone produced a deck of cards. Albert made chosen cards appear seemingly out of nowhere.

It was wonderful. For those few minutes, that small, elderly man was transformed into Alberto the Great.

Then, much to my joy, he taught me a couple of tricks!

When we were heading back to his room, I asked, “Did you know anybody famous?”

“I met Houdini, once.”

“No kidding?”

“I was a big fan.” Albert stroked his chin. “He did this one trick where he’d put a string and then some needles in his mouth. When he pulled the string out, the needles were all attached.” Albert shook his head. “I tried it. All I managed to do was cut up the inside of my mouth.”

We laughed.

“When I met Houdini, I told him my problem,” Albert continued. “He looked at me and hollered, ‘You @#^$#@! I got the threaded needles already stashed away in my cheek. The ones I put in there are candy. They melt away.’”

Again, we laughed.

For the rest of my tenure at the nursing home, I took pleasure in visiting with Albert. He’d brighten my day, and I hope I brightened his. A number of years have gone by since then, and I’m sure he’s gone, but I’ll always remember that old guy.

I realize there comes a time in our lives when we need to be cared for. It seems a bit tragic, though. Many are locked away and forgotten.

As I said, even the church tends to throw out the old and bring in the new, not realizing the value of maturity and experience. People who have faithfully served the Lord for years are forgotten, because they don’t fit someone’s qualifications of a good church member; not enough disposable income, not 2.3 kids, wrong age . . . stuff like that.

But what does the Lord say about the elderly?

Proverbs 16: 31 “Gray hair is a mark of distinction, the award for a God-loyal life.”

Leviticus 19:32 “Show respect to the aged; honor the presence of an elder; fear your God. I am God.”

How about you? Do you value those who’ve slowed down a step, maybe can’t do all they used to do? Have you assumed they have no purpose?

Be careful, in overlooking the gray haired, you may be missing out on someone like Albert. Someone . . . Great!



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