It is such a difficult time for all of us who care passionately about Israel, who are filled with anxiety about what is taking place, who grieve for the lives lost and who yearn for a peaceful world. Working in the world of Jewish elder care, we are managing our own emotions and working hard to support our elders as well. Many of us, and many of those we care for, have friends and family in Israel and feel the stress both on a global as well as a very personal level.
We have been focused on coming together as a community to support one another. We’ve held prayer services, posted and given out “We Stand with Israel” lawn signs and had an extraordinary outpouring of caring from our very diverse staff. As for so many, the worries are never far from our minds and we are haunted by the images of the loss of life, the pain of families of the hostages, the constant attacks that are happening non-stop throughout Israel.
Yet, this week we had a day of games and silliness on one of our campuses that seemed so counter to the heaviness we all feel. We had the equivalent of a child’s “field day” with games like corn hole, Jenga, football toss and even a dunking booth where some hardy members of the staff got soaked at the behest of staff and elders. It was two hours in which the sound of laughter echoed throughout our building.
We had questioned ourselves earlier in the week. Should we carry on with a lighthearted activity in the midst of this difficult time? Was this the wrong thing to do? We had this planned for many months but should we change our plans?
We made the decision that we, and our elders, needed the balance that this kind of activity could provide. And that’s what the feedback from everyone confirmed as well. While we cannot forget, we can distract ourselves, however briefly, and lighten our load for a moment. One elder thanked us and said how grateful she was “to feel like a kid again.” Another said that it gave them a few minutes “to break my worry cycle” and that it was just what was needed.
It was a reminder of the old saw that you need to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, essentially, that we need to practice self-care to keep ourselves strong and whole and able to assist. Especially with our older adults, staying strong is vital so that we can continue to offer assistance as well as prayer and continue to lift our voices to support Israel and decry those who would destroy us. May we all go from strength to strength and may the power of our strength, our commitment and our prayer help Israel and her people to prevail.