Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! … When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is humankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour (Psalm 8:1-5).
God, through the Psalmist, emphatically reminds us who we are. We are not nobodies, but somebodies! We are the work of God’s hands. God is mindful of us: we occupy His mind. God cares for us. God shares His crown with us – giving us glory and honour that we don’t deserve nor can ever earn. We are Somebodies.
A person may be living with dementia, but that does not change the fact that they are a person first and foremost. They have personhood. That is God-given. They are a Somebody – and other Somebodies (like us) should treat them as such.
Hammond Care held its International Dementia Conference in Sydney in early July. One of the speakers was Professor John Swinton from Aberdeen University. We have already met him in blog posts 15 and 17 (Discussing Dementia 2: On Caring) and in blog post 24 (Faith for Life). The title of John’s talk was “Taking time for those things that the world considers trivial: Choosing to be with and for people living with dementia”.
John shared about the tyranny of the clock, how ‘busyness kills compassion’, and that ‘loves takes a certain kind of time’. We all need to slow down and take time for the things that the world considers trivial – including those living with dementia. We all need to develop “a spirituality of timefullness’, realising that “dementia is a place of embodiment and slowness”. I’ll say some more about this in a later blog post.
While John’s talk wasn’t recorded, he was interviewed about his talk. The title of this video is “The significance of time for understanding people with dementia”. You can watch it here:
In his talk John quoted the words of Thomas Aquinas, the thirteenth century Dominican friar and theologian. John first told us Aquinas’ words, then invited us to turn to our neighbours and say it to them. The result was amazing. A conference room full of 1,000 people came alive. So what were Aquinas’ life-giving words?
“It’s good that you are here. I’m glad that you exist!”
I don’t think I have ever heard a more profound affirmation from one Somebody to another Somebody. We exist because God created us, however well or unwell we may be.
I invite you to share those words with others you meet. I also invite you to share them with people living with dementia, who desperately need to be reminded how valuable they are. They are Somebodies like us!
So, dear reader, it is good that you are here (though I wish we were meeting face-to-face). And I’m glad that you exist.