By in Personal

New Perspectives Come From Unexpected Sources

I've had the privilege of interacting with older adults my entire life, and in fact, my career both as a nurse and then social service worker centered on the senior population. I learned so much from those interactions. They've colored my thinking and opened my eyes to situations and experiences I would never have imagined myself.

In social service, my role was to visit older adults in the community who might need some assistance in maintaining their independence. The agency offered various services such as light housekeeping and personal care, handyman service and more, with those unable to pay full price offered co-pay by the agency.

One day, our office received a referral from a concerned church member about a older gentleman living alone. The gentleman had no family living nearby and was somewhat of a curmudgeon, thus not having many close friends. After making contact with said gentleman, I arranged an agreed-upon date and time to visit his home.

As I parked my car behind the one already parked out front, I couldn't help but notice the many NRA (National Rifle Association) bumper stickers on that car. Between the report by the church member that this gentleman was a little rough around the edges and the sight of the numerous NRA bumper stickers on what I assumed to be his car in the driveway, I was already developing a mental image of this man.

He ushered me into his home, instructing me to sit on the couch as he sat down in an upholstered chair directly across from me. The gentleman was pleasant, but didn't see how I or my agency could be of any assistance to him.

And just like that, he reached down in the chair between the seat cushion and chair arm and brought out what looked to me to be a derringer. He held his arm, bent at the elbow, pointing the small gun directly at me! I said nothing, tried not to look alarmed, and waited for the gentleman to make the next move or say the next thing.

He set the gun on his lap and began telling me some of his life story. He and his wife had never had children, but they did share a love and that was for sharpshooting. As a couple, they had won trophies and events from around the country. The accounts were fascinating and any fear I had felt quickly dissipated.

With great pride, the gentleman walked me to another room where some of his gun collection was stored and displayed. It was with reverence that he explained what gun was used for what type of shooting, which ones had been his wife's and more. He handed me a pistol that held special importance to him, after assuring me it was not loaded. It was then I knew then that he accepted my presence and would perhaps in time allow our agency to provide some services to improve his quality of life.

I've not met anyone quite like this gentleman before or since, but I'm convinced my life experience is richer for having met him and developing what turned out to be a good working relationship.

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Image Credit » by skeeze

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Rufuszen wrote on August 27, 2015, 2:35 PM

I had drilled into me, never point a weapon, loaded or not, at anyone. Familiarity can be a bad thing.

CoralLevang wrote on August 27, 2015, 2:44 PM

Oh, how I love this story! Although he probably should not have pointed the weapon at you, that you had the discernment not to go off the deep end with someone who clearly was misunderstood by the masses. He simply did not want to waste his time with those who are sheep-like in their thinking or delivery. He might have called it "no time for bureaucratic bullsh**!"

I saw a lot of myself in this fellow, as you tell the story.

Feisty56 wrote on August 27, 2015, 3:06 PM

His pointing the weapon happened within the first five minutes of meeting him. Of course someone with his background should know full well not to point a weapon at anyone, but it isn't something that ever happened again. I think he was trying to impress me with how quickly he was able to grab the gun and point it -- in the blink of an eye, really.

Feisty56 wrote on August 27, 2015, 3:14 PM

Thank you --I can see it in my mind's eye as if it happened yesterday. I am glad I didn't overreact, in fact react at all, when he pulled out the gun. No, he shouldn't have aimed it, but I'm guessing in his advanced age ( eighty-something) and his skill with guns, he didn't give it a thought.

One of the traits I have been blessed with is the ability to meet people on their level, whatever that might be. I found that very useful as both a nurse and social service worker. I always felt I had more human rather than official interactions with the many people I met, so that I was not perceived as a threat but at the very least a resource.

JohnRoberts wrote on August 27, 2015, 3:26 PM

I wish young people especially millennials would share in your experiences and see how much there is to learn from us old folks instead of just dismissing anyone over 50 as irrelevant (I state this in general terms). You meaning young people may not like or understand what you encounter but there is much to gain in the long run. I know when young we go all go through that what do old people know faze but never with the kind of animosity and spite I observe today.

wolfgirl569 wrote on August 27, 2015, 3:41 PM

I think he was testing you when he pointed it at you because as Rufuszen said most people have it drilled into them not to point unless they intend to use it. When you did not freak out that helped him know you could be a friend maybe. But also showed you he could defend himself

xstitcher wrote on August 27, 2015, 3:41 PM

The greatest lessons I have ever learned came from older folks--especially my pastor, who was like a grandfather to me.

CoralLevang wrote on August 27, 2015, 3:52 PM

I shall hire you as my nurse and social service worker. emoticon :winking:

VinceSummers wrote on August 27, 2015, 3:53 PM

Yes, I immediately recognized the photo of Annie Oakley. We can learn something from anyone. I've learned things from kids, and am not too proud to admit it.

morilla wrote on August 28, 2015, 1:23 AM

I've known people like this; even some who were considerably younger. At their core, most are basically good people. Coral has a pretty good handle on the personality in her comment above and "bureaucratic XXXXX" says a lot.

Paulie wrote on August 28, 2015, 1:42 AM

This is a very interesting story and it just goes to show that we can not judge a book by its cover.

AudreyHowitt wrote on August 28, 2015, 8:40 PM

That must have scared the tar out of you!

AliCanary wrote on August 29, 2015, 1:31 AM

I do appreciate a chance to learn from others, but apparently he never learned that pointing a gun at someone is very bad form!

valmnz wrote on August 29, 2015, 4:04 PM

Well, that was a story worth reading! You are right. I think we can form opinions too quickly. I'm sure you also enriched that man's life.

LoudMan wrote on August 30, 2015, 2:04 AM

I bet he would actually be fascinating to learn from.

Dragonfairy1 wrote on August 30, 2015, 8:00 AM

He sounds like an interesting man, I always think there's so much we can learn from different generations.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 2:43 PM

A local non-profit here in my county has teamed up with a local high school in its sociology class. The older adults attend some of the classes and both ages groups have the opportunity to learn more about one another. It would be wonderful if more communities were able to adopt this idea.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 2:46 PM

Something I've learned along the way is that not everyone responds well to the usual courtesies. When I encounter someone who is rather gruff, I change my way of responding to them -- not being disrespectful, but giving back a bit of what that person is throwing at me. I've rarely had this approach fail, and oftentimes, those types of people become respectful of me because I am not just meek and mild.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 2:48 PM

I was very close to my maternal grandparents and other older adults in my family. From a young age I learned to love the stories they would tell about their experiences and the wisdom handed down.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 2:51 PM

I think as long as we are open to learning -- and I hope to be each and every day of my life -- that we can learn from anyone. My grand kids are frequently amazing me with the things they know. I'm only too happy to give them an opportunity to reinforce their learning by sharing what they know with me.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 3:05 PM

Social services, no matter the type, frightens some people. Unfortunately, many people have preconceived notions about "social workers," so those first few visits are your opportunity to see you in a different light. I wish you the best as you continue your work.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 3:07 PM

&VisionofHope had a valid point too: When clients have been referred by someone else, rather than having made the call themselves, they are especially wary of "intruders." It is a privilege to be asked into someone's home, and I tried always to demonstrate that when I visited.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 3:08 PM

I did have my reservations before I entered this gentleman's home, but was happy to be proven wrong.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 3:09 PM

My heart did a few flip-flops. : )

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 3:11 PM

I'm certain he knew he shouldn't point it, but I think some of his faculties that would have put a brake on such an action were not what they had once been.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 5:44 PM

Thank you...I enjoyed my interactions with him. After a time, he did agree to allow light housekeeping services into his home (which the agency co-paid) and signed up for Meals on Wheels. They were both a benefit to him and he agreed the services improved his quality of life.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 5:48 PM

He share many of his memories with me over the time I knew him. One of his prized possessions that he had put away in a small cedar box was a Japanese flag he had taken during World War II, as he fought in the Pacific arena.

Feisty56 wrote on August 31, 2015, 8:08 PM

He was an interesting fella -- I've not met anyone quite like him before that or since.

Paulie wrote on September 1, 2015, 4:03 AM

Yes, first impressions of older people can be very deceiving.

Feisty56 wrote on September 1, 2015, 10:20 AM

Awww, thank you. : ) I take that as quite a compliment.

msiduri wrote on September 1, 2015, 1:04 PM

You reacted well. I don't know how I would have reacted given the same circumstances. But pointing a gun at anyone, loaded or not, it a foolish idea. One of things people learn early on in handling guns is to point them away from people.

cheri wrote on September 2, 2015, 9:56 PM

That was really an enriching experience. That is right that we learn a lot of things from unexpected people and resources.

Feisty56 wrote on September 3, 2015, 10:38 PM

Hundreds of thoughts seemed to have run through my mind in those seconds after I realized he had the gun in his hand pointing in my direction. In retrospect, I'm glad I had a calm exterior. : )

Feisty56 wrote on September 3, 2015, 10:40 PM

You know, I don't want t sound like Jane Seymour in her commercials about her open-heart jewelry, but I do think there is something to be said for keeping an open heart and mind at all times. Otherwise, we miss so many opportunities to inspire and be inspired.

lexiconlover wrote on September 30, 2015, 1:42 PM

This story did not go as I had thought it would. But this man reminds me of someone very close to me. Good story.