November 5, 2012
Grouchy Old Men by Roger North
Just recently, I noticed that I have been willing to admit that I am getting older. Yes, I know it’s a biological fact. But for a long time, I just wasn’t willing to admit it! Naturally, I’ve begun to think about what getting older might mean for me.
A friend of mine likes to pose this riddle. “How does a grouchy old man get that way?” His answer, “He was a grouchy young man”. I think there might be a kernel of wisdom in that riddle.
I recently joined a not-for-profit board of directors. A woman from my town has been on that board for many years. Ruth is no longer able to comfortably drive to our board meetings. So, she called me several days in advance to request a ride. Of course, I was happy to take her along.
Several weeks ago I picked Ruth up for the meeting. As she emerged from her home I noticed that she was significantly more “hunched” in her walking than she had been the previous time that I had seen her. She immediately told me that she had been battling scoliosis and osteoporosis. As she shuffled down the walk and struggled into the car, I prepared myself for a conversation about her medical history. Instead, I received bright engaging questions about my life and my family. I received encouragement and wisdom regarding our mutual responsibilities on the board of directors. I heard the words “wonderful, terrific and encouraging” several times over.
In the course of the conversation I asked her in what year she was born (a clever way of discovering her age don’t you think?). It turns out that she is a mere 81 years old. A very spry and inspiring 81, I might add.
This conversation got me to thinking “How does a positive engaging and wise older woman become that way?” Well, I suppose she has been that way for a long time.
Since I am now willing to admit that I am getting older, I am challenged to think about how people might experience me as the common limitations of age become more real.
Each year, I choose a theme for myself (big shocker for those of you that know me well). My 2012 theme has been: “Gratefulness, grace and generosity”. I chose these themes because I admire them in others and desire more of those characteristics (so often missing) in myself. You see, I think it is quite possible, even desirable, to alter the course of our lives by becoming intentional about who we are becoming. I know that I am in danger of becoming ungrateful, judgmental and stingy. That is not who I want to be, however. I want to practice those desirable characteristics of gratefulness, grace and generosity into my life. And, I need the accountability of friends and family to do so.
2013 is fast approaching. Another year older for all of us. We all know a few grouchy old folks. And, we all know a few Ruths. I’m planning to become a little bit more like Ruth and a little bit less like a grouchy old guy. How about you?