I recently made some visits to area nursing homes and, to my surprise, came across an inspiring and encouraging scene. Often I find nursing home residents "looking sad" as they watch TV, sit by themselves, or simply "doze in and out." But last week I came upon a scene that was much different!
As I entered the room of one of my church members, I found her and her room mate working on a giant puzzle. It was not an easy puzzle, it was a beautiful but challenging one. As I looked up at the walls of their room I was stunned: they were covered with framed, beautiful, completed puzzles that these two ladies had completed. It was an amazing scene. They were both happy, smiling, and eager to "show off" their work.
This scene, for me, brought back many memories. My mother (along with her brother) used to love to work puzzles together and, well into their 90's, they could often be found (sometimes late into the evening) working on a beautiful jig saw puzzle picture. For them, in the midst of all of the restrictions life had brought them, it was still something they could do. But it was more than simply something they could do, it was something they could do that resulted in a sense of accomplishment and a completed "work of beauty." For my mom and her brother, we did not put the finished pictures on the wall (I sort of wish now that we had) but we did take pictures and celebrate with them in their accomplishment.
Finding meaning in life, at every stage of life, is one of the things that preserves our mental (and spiritual) health. While it may not appear to be a great accomplishment to everyone, to some (my mom, her brother, and at least two ladies in the Garden's nursing home) working on puzzles is a way they can share their talents, gifts, and creativity with the world.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.