I keep meeting these wonderful people whose lives belie their age. Their enthusiasm is contagious, their zest for life captivating. They’re still thinking and dreaming, determined not to miss out on the fun, and they’re definitely not interested in planting themselves in a rocking chair and watching sunsets.
Last Thanksgiving Day, as we wrapped up our celebration at the church, I spotted a visiting gentleman who was shaking hands with a half dozen folks he’d never met before. Then he looked at me, and with a grin and a twinkle, he whipped out his hand. It was a hand you could strike a match on, toughened by decades of rugged toil.
“You look like a man who enjoys life. What do you do for a living,” I asked.
“Me? Well, I’m a farmer from back in the Midwestern USA.”
“Really? I guess I’m not surprised, since you’ve got hands like a tractor tyre.”
He laughed . . . asked me a couple of insightful questions, then told me about his plans for travelling on his own through the U.S. State of California.
“What did you do last week?” I asked. His answer stunned me. “Last week I finished harvesting 90,000 bushels of corn,” he said with a smile.
I then blurted out, “Ninety thousand! How old are you, my friend?”
He didn’t seem at all hesitant or embarrassed by my question. “I’m just a couple months shy o’ ninety.” He laughed again as I shook my head.
He had lived through four wars, the Great Depression, sixteen presidents, ninety Midwest winters, who knows how many personal hardships, and he was still taking life by the throat. I had to ask him the secret of his long and productive life. “Hard work and integrity” was his quick reply.
As we parted company, he looked back over his shoulder and added, “Don’t take it easy, young feller. Stay at it!”
His final comment reminded me of a physician’s words to me several years ago. As he was completing my physical check-up, we got on the subject of staying fit, and he told me a story I often recall. Some months earlier he had examined a lady in her eighties. She was still in fairly good physical condition, which prompted him to ask her if she stayed pretty active. With a wink she bragged, “I jog about four to five miles a day . . . every day.” Surprised, he told her she didn’t need to overdo it. “Take it easy,” he suggested. She took his words to heart and decided to slow down. She reduced her jog to a much slower walk and cut back to three or four days a week. I’ll never forget the doctor’s sad sigh as he finished the story. “She died a month ago. Never again will I tell a patient doing as well as she was doing to take it easy.”
The Bible is filled with folks who refused to take it easy. Remember our friend Caleb, who, at age 85, attacked the Anakim in the hill country and successfully drove them out (Joshua 14)? Or Abraham, who had a baby (well, actually Sarah did) when he was “in his old age” . . . he was 100, she was 90 (Genesis 21)? Or Noah or Moses or Samuel or Anna, the 84-year-old prophetess . . . significant people, all.
Age means zilch. Wrinkles, grey hair, and spots on your hands, less than zilch. If God chooses to leave you on this old earth, great. If He makes it possible for you to step aside from your work and move on to new vistas with fresh challenges, that’s also great. And whatever else you do, don’t take it easy!
Few things will get you in a rut quicker than sittin’ around watching hummingbirds suck red juice out of a jar!
A Finishing Touch: “No disease is more lethal than the boredom that follows retirement.” (Norman Cousins)
A Daily Reading: Psalm 90