The Fountain of Youth

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

That wisdom was shared by the one and only Sophia Loren. I didn’t see many movies starring Ms. Loren growing up — except for “Houseboat.” It was shown more than once on the Sunday afternoon movies on the local NBC affiliate. That last bit of trivia has nothing to do with this post, but reminded me of why I once thought having a nanny was a great idea. In truth, I thought living on a houseboat was even a grander idea, but the nanny concept was right up there pretty close.

I have never really pursued a fountain of youth. I don’t recall having a mid-life crisis, either. That could be because I didn’t have one or because I simply can no longer remember.

Throughout my 6+ decades I haven’t really thought about aging because the mental picture I carry of myself is one from my 20s — or perhaps my 30s or 40s — but certainly not my 60s. I spend a majority of my time thinking I can still do things I did a long time ago. And then there are those moments that I can’t. Without a doubt, I am getting old.

Those hesitant moments are different from other moments. After my recent shoulder surgery I was surprised when I could not, no matter how hard I tried, raise my arm. That is an injured moment — acute, but not chronic. These more senior moments are the ones that hit you in the gut with the realization that “this” (whatever “this” is) will never, ever get any better.

I had one of those moments at the gym yesterday. I’d like to tell you about how I can no longer benchpress several hundred pounds and how disappointing that was. However, I’ve been disappointed by that inability all of my life. No, the difficult moment I experienced was in a quiet corner of the locker room.

Often times I go to the gym very early in the morning. And, in an effort to conserve time, it is my practice to shower and dress for work while there. Before yesterday, I had always worn my glasses into the shower area, laid them aside with my towel and then donned them again on my way back to the locker room.

Ever seeking efficiency, I had the grand idea yesterday that I would leave my glasses in my locker. It greatly lessens the chance that I might lose them or drop them. So off I went to the showers sans eyeglasses. Shower completed I retraced my steps to my locker. It was then it hit me.

Without my glasses, I couldn’t see the numbers on the combination lock. I made an effort. I squinted. I rotated my head in bird fashion to elevate my good eye to a superior position. I squeezed my eyes tight and then opened them rapidly. I even tried to read the numbers on the lock in Braille-like fashion with my fingertips.

Nothing worked. The truth became much more clear than the numbers on that lock. I cannot see without my glasses. Nor will it ever get any better. I’m simply to that age.

We all have these moments when we see something we’ve taken for granted slipping away. Or in my case, not just slipping. That train had completely left the station. With that in mind, I was forced to begin thinking differently about the reality of our limited existence on this earth.

You would think at this point in the story that I might introduce a dramatic plot twist revealing my McGyver-like thinking and problem-solving. Instead, I turn to a bit of philosophy.

There comes a time when you have to turn the business of the day over to someone younger and better prepared.

And so I did. I was a little embarrassed to ask for help. Young guy. Maybe late fifties. More than happy to come to my assistance. With it, he offered this sound advice: “Don’t leave your glasses in the locker next time. No telling what might happen to you.”

Words to live by. Keep your glasses close by. Never go too far without extra hearing aid batteries. If you really believe you can outrun that car, you’re simply wrong. But that’s a story for another day.

 

Olfactory Attraction

I’ve been driving a lot lately. And at intersections it seems like I’ve been surrounded by young men who are piloting very expensive vehicles. I make various judgments about these fellows. I assume, for example, that they are internet billionaires with lots of money to spend. Or, they live in their parents’ garage apartment and spend their entire paycheck leasing a fancy car. But in every case, I suspect and feel fairly confident that each and every one is trying to attract friends with their show of affluence. The thing that puzzles me is their application of olfactory attraction.

In my observation, almost 50% of these young men are hanging those pine tree shaped car deodorizers from their rear-view mirrors.

Now, I understand that a small, enclosed space can become a little, shall I say, aromatic from time to time. But apparently it’s all the rage to publicize that to potential riders by hanging tangible evidence of your need to mask odors.

So, I’m proposing a business venture that is perhaps worthy of a visit to Shark Tank. I propose we manufacture and sell large magnetic signs that boldly say:

This car smells bad. Would you like a ride?

This could be yuge.

 

And now for something completely different . . .

and without any particular value

Writing on December 31 always presents a problem. People have expectations. People have needs. Yet, I feel drawn to create something completely different.

Let’s face it. On the last day of the year, you probably have little interest in reading something life-changing. Frankly, even something inspiring can be a little daunting.

What you expect is for writers to reveal their wisdom regarding New Year Resolutions. Or, you seek out the countercultural group that write, at great length, about their disdain in reference to New Year Resolutions.

The trick for me is to not write about either perspective. Of course, I had to write about both in order to tell you that I was writing about neither.

What I just realized is that, now that I’ve started down this path, there is little I can do to distract you from New Year Resolutions. I count that as a character fault on your part and I accept no responsibility.

Be that as it may, perhaps this will help . . .

Happy New Year!

Day 2.1 – Hallelujah!

Looking forward to our first full day in Kigali, we questioned — perhaps even dreaded — one item on our schedule. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to go to church on Sunday. We just wondered if we would be in any shape to survive the projected 4-hour service with somewhat serious jet-lag. Hallelujah! God had other plans.

As we were escorted to the front pews — actually plastic lawn chairs — on the front rows of the Itorero Methodist Church, we became fairly positive that nothing about this service was going to make us sleepy. (That thought proved optimistic by the time we got to the visiting preacher’s sermon, however.)

Full of energy, we were treated to a kids’ choir, a young peoples’ choir, and the main, serious-dressed choir. And the kids and our new friends blessed us with praise and volume. We even had a guest appearance by a famous Rwandan Gospel singer, whose name escapes me at this time. A number of personal translators came to our sides. We heard announcements, were greeted warmly as visitors, saw 2 new members embraced into the fellowship of this church, heard more and more songs.

And we learned about “Hallelujah!”

“Hallelujah!” a speaker would call out and the audience would answer with “Hallelujah!” and “Amen!” It became our rally cry as well.

Invigorated from our time inside the cavernous church building — with open screens to permit ventilation and open windows below — we made our way outside to be greeted by the congregants and, of course, the children.

And all we can say is, “Hallelujah!”

 

9 Days and Counting – Detours

For Allison, Dan, Betty, Aaron, Malcolm, Robyn, and me, the days are head are narrowly focused toward our peace mission to Africa. Yet, there are detours.

Robyn and Betty are concentrating today — and good parts of many days before this — on the release of Betty’s new book (co-authored with Nanon Williams), The Darkest Hour, and the premiere of the documentary of the same name produced by Robyn (both projects by Robyn’s GoodMedia Press). The big event is tonight on the SMU campus in Dallas. That’s a pretty special detour.

I saw on FaceBook that Dan and Allison had a date night recently. As busy as they have been with work and getting ready for Africa, there hasn’t been much time for those wonderful events. That’s a pretty special detour.

Aaron and Malcolm are working and trying to get as much family time as possible in these last few days. That’s a pretty special detour.

Several of us from the team plan to be at Robyn’s and Betty’s event tonight in Dallas. That’s a really special detour.

Detours. Little changes in route. Some caused by challenges. Some representing opportunities.

I should be on my way to Dallas right now. But I came across, with the able assistance of Nancy, my wife, one of those detours you would label as “opportunity.”

Today is senior day at the West Texas Fair and Rodeo. All of us old codgers (and young lasses like Nancy) get in free. That isn’t enough to tempt us to tromp through the dusty lots at the fairground. But something else is.

And so we stood in line for a half hour, in the sun, in the dust, to buy two of Harold’s World Famous BBQ chopped beef sandwiches. We wolfed them down pretty quickly — after all, this was a detour. And, in truth, Nancy is much more refined than I am. She didn’t wolf her sandwich down. But that’s why she only finished half of hers.

To those of you from outside of Abilene, that trip to the fairgrounds doesn’t sound like that big a deal. In fact, you might be tempted to pass an opportunity like that by. But then, you’ve probably never had Harold’s BBQ. You see, Harold retired a few years ago, leaving a gaping hole in the BBQ industry of Abilene. Fortunately we have dozens of other great smoked meat and sauce shops. But Harold’s BBQ is . . . Harold’s BBQ. And that’s a special detour.

Detours are all different. But all are important. After all, sometimes a detour is simply where you find yourself. And that’s reason enough to make the best of it.

Our trip to Rwanda and Kenya is, in the grand scheme of things, this month’s detour for us. And, we will be making the best of it. And that’s a very special detour.