It broke Mary Rozotto’s heart to hear the words from her mother: “I just don’t have a purpose.”
Her mom, also named Mary, just turned 93 years old and had lived at the Lionwood Senior Living community for the past two years. In the recreation room, you’ll see residents playing video games and hear laughter in the air. But regardless of surroundings, many seniors find their physical limitations to be depressing – especially with so many memories of years being active.
“She said, ‘All my life, I had purpose,’” Mary recalled. “It just kind of resonated with me for a while – how sad it made her. I could just see it. I kept thinking about it and praying, ‘What can I do?’ because there’s not a lot (physically) that she can do.”
Mary’s prayer was answered. “This idea came to me, and I felt like it was just a grace moment.” She thought of a simple task that was easy to follow, but one that was meaningful – one that would provide ‘purpose’ for her mom and fellow residents as well. Mary used to give food, water, and other essentials in plastic bags to homeless people on the street. “I know the need is there,” she said. “I pass the need on every street corner.” But those “homeless bags” required a lot of time and effort to prepare.
Mary knew her frail mother couldn’t go with her to deliver the bags to people on the street… but if her mom couldn’t be the feet of Christ, she and her friends could still be the hands.
Mary spread the word, putting flyers on the residents’ doors to come to a new activity. Soon, her mom found herself sitting with seven others around a table, forming an assembly line of kindness. They began putting tissue, crackers, plastic shavers, water bottles, and other items into plastic bags. Mary did the heavy lifting, carrying the items in from her car, but these ladies added a heavy dose of love – each one putting a single item in a bag, then passing it along to their right. Within minutes, dozens of homeless bags were filled.
What did resident Lucille Vann get out of being a part of that effort? “Joy to my heart. Joy,” she said. “We’re trying to help somebody. The Bible tells us to help one another. And that’s what I get.”
“We all came together because we wanted to do something for others who were not a part of our group,” Nyla DePauk said with a smile. “It’s just a little effort, but I contributed to it, which made it complete.” Without being able to deliver the items, the effort seemed like a gracious act for people those residents will never meet. But Lillie Buckner pointed out… the homeless do not disappear after we drive by.
“You’ll meet them. You’ll meet them in front of the grocery store and at the malls,” she said. “It’s a good feeling (to do this). It makes you feel like you’re helping your neighbor. And who knows? Any one of us could be out there at any given time.”
“I got a lot out of it,” Birdie Holmes said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, just as long as you help somebody.”
And Mary’s mother found her new purpose. “The difference is huge (for her) because it’s ‘giving.’ It’s providing a need,” Mary said. “No matter what age we are, we never give up that need – that desire to fulfill our purpose. Just do something (to help others). It works both ways, for the person that receives it and for the person who gives it.”