Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” I’m not sure how old she was when she said it, but since “thirty is the new forty” I suspect I’m not far behind the age she was. It’s true, I color my grey hair. Yes, I’ve had a knee and a hip replaced. My grandchildren know that I am o-o-o-l-d. But here’s the thing that nobody knows until they actually grow older: inside I have a young brain and a young heart. No, I’m not in my second childhood. Yet my thoughts and feelings are as young as when I was in my thirties. Plus, I have some added wisdom, I hope!
When I was in my twenties, I made a good friend who was in her forties, Billie. In the deep South where we live, it’s customary to call someone older by Miss or Mr. and their first name. The first time I called her Miss Billie, she wasn’t having it. She said, “I’m just Billie.” She had friends her age, but she became a regular part of my circle of friends in our early twenties. We shopped, went to lunch and the movies, and we all became very close. Billie was just one of us. We didn’t think about her age, because she was so young at heart.
Every now and then, we were reminded of our age difference … and those were times when she dropped a few nuggets of wisdom on us. Sometimes we younger ladies received it and learned from her nuggets. Other times we dismissed them, because we were too immature and hadn’t had her experience. Believe me, twenty years down the road, I understood and appreciated every single one of those wisdom nuggets. Now, it’s forty years down the road, and I am so thankful I had Billie and her wisdom in my life.
What’s my point? In Japan, seniors are revered and respected. In our American culture, seniors are often over-looked or dismissed. Now that I am a senior, I want everybody to know that senior citizens have a wealth of interesting and helpful memories and insights that can impact younger people for good, if they take time and listen. Remember those nuggets my younger friends and I dismissed, because we thought they were on the old-fashioned side of things? Well, when I was on the brink of forty, those nuggets came back to me at just the right time in my life. I was sinking, and when I embraced the things she told me all those years ago, it was like grabbing a life buoy. Those insights weren’t in the least old-fashioned; they were truth. When I applied them to my life, I took a giant step in maturity and wisdom. And I appreciated my young-at-heart friend even more.
Next time you have an opportunity to have a conversation with someone older than you . . . whether they are forty or eighty . . . grab it! You may discover some golden nuggets!
As for me, if nothing else, I can tell you how fun it was to go to a one-room school . . . how uncomfortable it was to wear rollers to bed every night because there were no blow dryers or hot curlers . . . how thrilling it was to watch history in the making on our console T.V. as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon . . . how I’ve gathered some of my own nuggets of wisdom through the years . . . and how not to turn into a sissy when you are over the proverbial hill!
“You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis
“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.” – Benjamin Franklin.
“I thought, ‘Those who are older should speak, for wisdom comes with age.’” – Job 32:7