Editor’s Note: Rabbi Mark Levin is the founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, KS, and a contributor to Jewish Sacred Aging.
People our age, my age, in our sixties and above, need to be attuned to helping one another. What does that mean?
It means that everyone I know, EVERYONE, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, is in need of some sort of sensitivity and outreach. Most don’t want to admit it. Whether it’s acute or long term illness; recent or impending loss; constant, insistent pain; adult children or children adults; everyone has some tsarah, some hurt, that demands their attention. They need sensitivity to their hurt, a helping hand from time to time, a listening, sensitive ear even more frequently, reliable respite care, and someone to help restore their resilience.
This is a change over the last 6 years. A change occurs in life at 60, and another one at 80. After 60 everyone has some pain that is not likely to heal. That’s entirely different than earlier, when we could expect to recover. Now we can’t always expect to recover, and that’s a significant pain of a different sort. Now, what ails us may not only be unrelenting, but without much hope of reprieve.
It could be depressing, but it does not need to be. And a primary antidote to depressing is resilience; a second, and nearly as important antidote, is a true friend or loved one to share through authentic presence. You’d be amazed how far sincere caring can carry us down the road to healing.
There’s a difference between a cure and healing. A cure restores us to where we were. Healing enables us to live full lives, maybe even better lives, without a cure. It can be both physical and spiritual, but it’s definitely spiritual.
So listen up: if you are younger, prepare yourself. If you have arrived, you already know this, and I am just trying to articulate what you’ve been thinking, and maybe even saying. There’s strength in communal sharing, a small community or large. Let us not be silent to one another. Let us signal that we are prepared to reach out and help, not for the bragging rights, but for the kindliness that we have discovered we all need. We have come of age.