I thought going on Medicare last year was the official threshold to old age. I was wrong. The more defining old age moment came last week when the high school kid bagging my groceries asked if I needed help carrying them to my car. After I thanked him and declined help with my two small bags, he looked genuinely concerned and said, “Are you sure?” I chose to view his alarm as a tender gesture of care and not necessarily a put-down. His compassion was touching even though I am still able to lift two pounds without breaking a hip. This act of kindness gave me pause to reflect on other benefits of being an old guy. I believe we focus too much on the sadness and loss of growing old. Here are few thoughts on the upside of becoming an old guy in a youth valuing society.
- Now that I’m an old guy, I find I don’t need to share everything I know every chance I get. Sometimes, when the conversation shifts onto a topic within my expertise, I just let it happen without a response. When I was younger, I would find a way to judiciously insert some informed but self-promoting tidbit that displayed my expert status. I don’t do that anymore. Now I prefer to just listen and consider other’s thoughts on the subject. I don’t know that I have gotten more humble with age or I just don’t want the responsibility that comes from being the expert. Sometimes the follow up on being that guy seems like more work than just sitting there nodding.
- Now that I’m an old guy, it has gotten really hard to just straight up lie to me. My dad often repeated a saying about knowing the difference between poop and a certain brand of brown shoe polish. For those too young or too urban to be familiar with this saying, it would come out when Dad was referencing a dumb person. He would say, “That old boy don’t know poop from Shinola.” I actually keep a can of Shinola on a shelf in my office to remind me that some things are not as they appear but I still need to know the difference. Anyway, when I was young, I was often surprised when people would lie to me. Now, not so much. It surprises me more when people who should know better accept poop as though it were shoe polish. Knowing the difference is still the starting place for living a wise and discerning life.
- Now that I’m an old guy, I do not take for granted that I know the meaning of every verse in the Bible. I used to assume that if I studied hard enough I could absolutely understand God’s Word. But now, as an old guy, even though I am still in awe of God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture, I am less sure of my ability to figure Him out. As I’ve gotten to know Him better, He is bigger and deeper and more complex than I used to think. I still study the Bible with passion and diligence but I just feel like I understand the Lord better now that I don’t understand Him as well.
- Now that I’m an old guy, the lines have blurred between I have to and I get to. I have always been a fairly duty bound person. I obey the rules, do my job, keep my promises, and color within the lines. I do what I do because it’s right to do right. Still, I am also aware of what I prefer doing when I am not “on”. This doesn’t mean I’m unregulated and lawless in my “off” time. Far from it. But I definitely know the difference between doing what I want to do and what I have to do. Lately I notice that the two domains have run together. With age, duty and desire somehow folded in on each other. What changed? I’m not sure. I doubt I’m less selfish than I was thirty years ago. Maybe old guys just don’t want to think about it that much. We just do it. Whatever it is. And it is really okay.
I think there are probably other benefits to getting old but those are the ones that come to mind. Funny how other less virtuous parts of my disposition haven’t changed. I still get annoyed when people linger at green traffic lights, or when my sports teams lose with maddening regularity, or when I have to attend a meeting. Any meeting. Hopefully a kinder and gentler me is emerging in my old age. Maybe…just maybe…I am truly growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…to Him be glory both now and forever…Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18). Either that or I just don’t have as much energy to be a jerk. I’m hoping it is the former.
But hey…it’s fortnight. Enjoy it like an old guy with nothing left to prove.