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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 3:05 pm | Fair 67º

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Rona Barrett: An Expression of the Properly Human Attitude

Seems like holidays are now the only time we allow ourselves to relax, recharge, reflect and rekindle past memories.

Thinking about my father, I can't remember my very last Thanksgiving with him.

Although I can remember one Thanksgiving toward the end when he baffled us by frantically looking through closets and cupboards, demanding: “Where's the bird?!  Where's the bird?!”  

I said as patiently and poetically as possible, “Dad, birds are in gilded cages, or outdoors on the wire or you might even find two in the bush...”

“No!” he shouted, “I mean the bird we're supposed to eat. I'm starving!”

And that’s probably when my father lectured me on how to treat and respect the elderly. I can chuckle at the memory now, but at the time I felt like a real birdbrain.

Pope Francis spoke of respecting and caring for our elders to a joint meeting of our Congress, the first pontiff in history to do so. Can you believe it was two months ago?  

And now that the 21-canon salutes, mass hysteria and his preeminent domain over our mainstream media has subsided, let’s remind ourselves of Pope Francis' comments that seemed to fall on the collective deaf ears of our media and many of the nearly one billion people supposedly listening to his every word.

I was going to say it surprised me (but it really didn't because I've seen it time and time again) that the Pope’s poignant words on palliative care and the elderly stirred very few.

This, of course, is less a reflection on the Pope and more a reflection on how we as a society still ignore the graying elephant in the room, that is, “What are we going to do with…?” and “Where do we find the patience to deal with…?” our senior loved ones.

Pope Francis urges us to think of these issues not through what he called “the logic of utility” but through our hearts and souls.  

And what better time than Thanksgiving to do just that?

“Assisting the elderly and palliative care,” the Pope has said, “is an expression of the properly human attitude of taking care of one another, especially of those who suffer. It bears witness that the human person is always precious, even if marked by age and sickness.”

Citing the biblical commandment to honor one's father, he scorned those who neglect or mistreat their parents and marginalize them “to the point of abandonment.”

“Abandonment is the most serious 'illness’ of the elderly,” he added.

Then he gave something for all of us who care for the elderly — volunteers or professionals, friends or family members — to think about on this day of thanks.

“...The wisdom that makes us recognize the value of the elderly person and that brings us to honor them, is the same wisdom that allows us to appreciate the numerous gifts that we receive every day and to be happy.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Until next time, keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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