As the calendar fills up with fall activity, our church tries very hard to communicate and publicize worship, events, meetings, classes and community events. Despite our best efforts, though, there are some we just can’t seem to connect with. They do not notice a poster on the wall, read an item in the weekly newsletter, hear an announcement, check their email or open an invitation. It is as if their peripheral vision is impaired, and they are only attentive to that which they are personally involved in or working on.
It happens everywhere. Shoppers bump into me or block the aisles as they scan the shelves, unaware of the presence of the people around them. Drivers are seem oblivious to the cars around them in traffic as they pull out right in front of me or cut me off as if I were invisible. Too many are unfamiliar with current events, are disengaged from pop culture, and completely miss the hurricane warning.
A few years ago, my dad began to require more and more care, which came primarily from my brother. When I began to visit more often, to spend time and to help with care, my brother explained that the size of my dad’s world had shrunk.
At meals, my dad was only aware of the food directly in front of him. If he wasn’t supposed to eat a certain food, we only needed to place it out of his reach on the table, and he wouldn’t notice it. Meal times times focused solely on eating. Even at a table filled with people, his attention was given solely to the breakfast, lunch, supper or snack task at hand. Last week when I visited, I wheeled him out to the dining room, where he forgot all about my presence as soon as the first course, a bowl of soup, was served. Those are often the moments when we end our visits, for he will not notice our absence, nor will he remember that we were there.
In just a short time, my dad’s living space was reduced from a house with a yard, to just a room – first in my brother’s house, then in a memory care center. From a large circle of family and friends, he now only keeps in touch with a few people. His wardrobe is basic; just a few pairs of pants and shirts.
In contrast, when we are young, our world starts very small and expands quickly. From an isolated in utero beginning, we soon meet immediate, then extended family, make friends in preschool, and join our friends to play sports. When we learn to read, a whole world of books is available to us. Vacations take us to far off places. We meet students from all over the country at college. When we graduate, we relocate for our jobs in new cities and sometimes foreign countries.
At what point does the process reverse? When does your world begin to shrink? When does your awareness of what’s going on around you become smaller and smaller?
Is it when we become tied down to a place with family and responsibility? When life becomes so busy that we read, learn and explore less? When we begin to outlive those friends and family who exposed us to the world out there? When older technology is so much more comfortable than the new? When physical sight and hearing is impaired? Or when my body just can’t venture very far from home?
I wonder if I’ve reached the tipping point. Has my world begun to shrink, even without me being aware? If not, can I delay that? If so, can I reverse that trend? Is it possible to make your world expand once again?