Since as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a good connection with the elderly – I even worked one summer and fall of High School for a nursing home doing data entry and helping with various computer tasks. On my breaks, I’d spend my time talking to the members of the home. I truly enjoyed their company, and while I can’t be sure of the same – at least I think they enjoyed having a person to talk to. I’m not confessing to anything, but maybe I’d bring them milk shakes from the next door restaurant – even though it may have gone against their suggested diet plans. Most of them would make the argument that once you reach a certain age and check into your final “Senior Living Resort” destination, you can pretty much screw the diet plans. I concur.
Anyways, as I got to know the members of the nursing home, I also got to hear their stories. One gentleman told me about his experience in World War II with such detail it would rival a History Channel Special. One told me of his experiences with the Civil Rights movement and marching with local celebrities. I remember clearly one man who made it a point to tell me of his escapades chasing women “in his prime” in Chicago. Sometimes, I told them stories – but, most of the time, I just listened. Truth is, I was genuinely interested in what they had to say.
I remember showing up for work one day on Election Day. At the time, I still wasn’t old enough to vote. I walked into the man lobby just in time to see a busload of nursing home patients unloading. Each were in their signature “cardigans and sweaters” with their “I Voted” stickers proudly displayed.
There’s a conversation I had that day that I probably won’t forget – at least, every time I go to the polls I’ll be reminded of it. It’s not exactly something that’s profound enough to recall all the time – but it never escapes me when I walk up to a voting machine.
One gentlemen grabbed my wrist with the strong grip that old men have, even when their bones are brittle – the kind that surprises you, but commands your attention nonetheless.
“Did you vote, Grant?”
“No, I can’t yet. I’m not old enough.”
“When you do vote Grant – make sure you vote for the guy that you’d invite over for dinner – and when dinner was over – he’d stay and help you do the dishes.”
“Because anyone who can clean his own plate as a guest in your house will likely be the guy who is humble enough to appreciate the guy who cooked it.”
I think my elderly friend had it right. If you’re going to be a leader – you have to do the dishes. And if you’re going to agree to do the dishes, then you’d better appreciate those that feed you, or you’re simply going through the motions.
Just some food for thought, from an old friend at a nursing home – full of wisdom, wit, and timeless advice for picking a politician.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a dinner date to book.