Aged Like Scotch: Becoming More Like Yourself
As I said on Monday, the Gray Hairs in my world have inspired me, though not all of them. You don't have to look far to realize aging does not make us venerable by default. Rather, we simply become more of who we've been all along. Every inch of our choices is tied up by years into miles of footsteps in whatever direction we've been walking. Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes habit. I run a Meals on Wheels route two days a week for The Window, a group working to provide people in Goshen with the fundamentals of our existence: food and clothing. Meals on Wheels (in case you live under a rock) is a program that gets food to home-bound (as in unable to leave their home) persons. There is likely one in your area. Hint Hint.
But it's much more than just dropping off food. As Francis told me today (other than the fact that she used to be a belly dancer), "I don't have any living family other than my son." The way she talks, it doesn't sound like she has too many good friends either. "I'm 91, I figure I should just be able to kick off now," she says.
After a couple of weeks I already feel an emotional rhythm, more reliable than the local factory shift changes. These people have after all spent their entire life working at being them. By now, they are steady-eddie, pro-grade versions of themselves. Some for better, others for worse.
Betty for example, has no feeling in her legs, and her husband died four years ago. Since his death she has been in and out of nursing homes, which has been difficult for her. What is remarkable is her constant other-centered focus, even in the time of her life that most would say she is entitled to a little self-centeredness. She lives (maybe literally) to serve people, to the extent that when she was discharged from one of her nursing home stays, they offered her free room and board to stay on as an advocate for other residents.
Once, when she learned that her room mate used to be a ballerina, she would sing songs to her. And when Betty realized that this woman only had one change of clothes, she gave up some of her own, "But Jason," she said, "God told me, 'Betty, why don't you give her your best.' I figured that's what God had done for me, so why not?"
She tells me that her job now is an intercessor. She doesn't get to see people or get outside as much as she'd like, but she has purpose, even in her pain. And on a day when I was working through my own anxieties, she turned my own attitude around entirely. "Just pass it on" she tells me.
That request, maybe call it a wise and gentle command, is a call to tack on an inch along the path that Betty started walking a very long time ago.