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Hello in There, Hello...

Back in 1971, folk artist John Prine released his first album, which included a song titled "Hello in There." This song speaks about an elderly couple living alone in virtual silence, after their kids have grown up and moved out on their own (one son was killed in the war). It's a sweet, sad, haunting melody that sticks with you long after the song is over. The chorus goes something like this:

"Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day. Old people just grow lonesome, waiting for someone to say, hello in there, hello."

Every time I hear this song, it makes me feel a little bit melancholy to think there really are elderly people out  there who are alone and feeling lonely. Last week, I had the pleasure of hearing John Prine perform this song live, all by himself, on stage at the Ryman Auditorium and I have to tell you, it brought tears to my eyes. For most of us, it's hard to imagine living a life totally alone where you have nothing to say, no one to see, and where each new day is pretty much the same as the one before. When you work full time and/or still have kids at home to raise, our days are bustling to the brim...filled with noise, clutter, schedules, activities, meetings, phone calls, chores, to-do-lists, and people.

Maybe I’m getting a little bit more nostalgic around the holiday season as I get older. But it’s sad to think that there are senior citizens in our own community who might be sitting alone all day, every day…all but forgotten.

We’re lucky to live in an area full of great community outreach programs which benefit senior citizens, especially during the holidays. Home Instead Senior Care hosts their annual “Be Santa to a Senior” program where you choose an ornament with a senior’s name on it from their tree, purchase a gift, and return the gift for delivery. Some of these requests are for items as simple as socks and toiletries. Breaks your heart, doesn’t it? Mt. Juliet Health Care has a similar program, and don’t forget that the Senior Center organizes Meals on Wheels year round which delivers meals to seniors who are housebound. I'm sure we can find many more opportunities right here in our back yard if we just let our fingers do some walking.

I just can't say it any better than John Prine, so I'll end with the final verse from “Hello in There” which says something like this…

So if you're walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient eyes, please don't just pass 'em by and stare as if you didn't care, say hello in there, hello."

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