Andrew Weil, M.D., the renowned author on holistic medicine wrote in his book, Healthy Aging, “In 2002 I turned 60…After the festivities, there was time to reflect, and when I did, I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: I am closer to a time when my energy and powers will diminish, when I will lose my independence.”
Well, in 2013, I too will turn 60 and I’m coming to the same “uncomfortable conclusion”. And to be honest, I haven’t rounded the corner towards acceptance yet. I’m still “kicking against the goad” (Acts 26:14). Perhaps that’s why I’m writing this “self help” series on aging and ageism in America.
For starters, let me introduce you to Barb who was 68-years-old when admitted to hospice with chronic airway obstruction. Barb is essentially homebound and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around in her home. She may be chronically ill, but she hasn’t given up. She cooks and cleans from her wheelchair and clings to what abilities remain.
Barb and I, and sometimes her daughter Angie, periodically convene at the kitchen table. One day while reminiscing about “the good ole days”, Angie shared, “When mom was younger she was really hot. The guys were really after mom.”
Then Barb looked at me and said, “You probably don’t believe that do you? All you probably see is an old woman in a wheelchair…But I didn’t always look like this!”
It’s true, Barb, wasn’t always confined to a motorized wheelchair. Barb was one of 17 children, born to an oil rig worker, a “tool dresser”. She was born in the state of Delaware but moved back to their hometown of McDermott when she was six-months-old. Her father’s work required frequent temporary moves and Barb lost count at five. I asked Barb if it was difficult for her as a child to change schools and she replied, “Not really. I really loved school. I was good at school. I was always advanced so I was the teacher’s pet. When I was in first grade I went to school in a one-room schoolhouse where all the grades were in the same room. I was only in the first grade but I helped teach the third graders math.”
Barb enrolled in college at age 30 and earned a degree in business administration with a minor in psychology. Afterward, she took numerous civil service exams, passing all of them, and landing a job with the state examiners office, auditing political subdivisions for 10 years. She also taught part-time at a local business college. But I believe that Barb’s proudest achievements were the box of her awards as a 4H and Girl Scout leader that she sifted through at the kitchen table during one of my visits.
Barb concluded, “It’s not a fault; It’s human nature to see people as they are right now… Some people can’t see with their mind’s eye. When you use your mind’s eye you see beyond the here and now; you imagine. Have you ever seen those TV shows about the pyramids and ancient ruins? Can’t you imagine what they looked like years ago…Can’t you imagine them surrounded by palm trees? Can’t you imagine how beautiful they must have been?”
I told Barb, “I’ll tell you what I see. I see a very intelligent person; someone who is very discerning. I see a person who studies people, who is able to read people and who sees through pretenses. I see someone who has something to teach others.”
Barb replied, “Maybe someone can learn something from this and a life will be changed.”
Perhaps you and I will be a life that is changed. I believe we can be if we choose to see people with our mind’s eye.
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:6-8)
I invite you to share your thoughts and insights with me at email@example.com.