Sunday, May 25, 2014

Godly Play with Seniors: The Desert Stories

So much has been going on lately that I haven't had time to document it all in blog posts! Since I last checked in about my work with seniors, I've begun to tell the desert stories. In April, I told "The Great Family" and in May I told "Exodus". 

My German colleague, Dr. Martin Steinhäuser, commented once that the desert stories can lead to a powerful release of thoughts and emotions in seniors. This has been my experience with my small group of ladies. 

A desert landscape in the Sinai Peninsula

These women were all children during World War II. One lady shared during the Wondering for "Exodus" that she identified with the children of Israel when Pharoah's army was coming after them. As a 10-year-old, her family had been driven out of Stettin (now a part of Poland) and forced to relocate near the Baltic Sea. She knew the feelings of fear and uncertainty very well.

That generation has not typically had the opportunity to talk about the things that happened to them, because the culture at that time encouraged people to keep their feelings to themselves and just keep going. That makes these conversations all the more important in being able to process their memories in the context of faith. 

A couple of the ladies really like to just run their hands through the sand in my desert bag. It's easy to forget that they no longer have opportunities to do this. Although the nursing home has a beautiful garden that the ladies can visit, they obviously don't play in a sandbox. 

I have still not really figured out how to do a Response Time with these ladies. I am not musically gifted, so singing the older German hymns is difficult for me. Lois Howard, whom I've written about before, often plays Bingo with her seniors. Perhaps that would be an option if I could find the time to make the Bingo cards.

My 8-year-old daughter has been accompanying me to our Godly Play sessions with the seniors. This last time, she had spent the night with her class at school the evening before, so I gave her the option not to go in case she was too tired. To my surprise, she insisted on going with me. One of the ladies that we are particularly close to at the nursing home gave her a small stone that her son had brought back from Bethlehem. My daughter was delighted and told me afterwards, "I'm going to always keep it, so I can remember her  after she dies." Such a wise child. 


  1. Sheila, I'm so touched by your work with seniors. Yes, they need the pleasure of touching the sand, they need hugs as much as children do.

    1. Thanks, Asmic! It has really enriched our lives to be able to share these stories with the ladies there. Sometimes, I get stressed beforehand, because preparing the story is one more thing to do, but I am always glad that I went afterwards.