By Rev. Joseph M. Esper
Originally Published on August 1st, 2018
Two elderly sisters decided it would make sense to pool their resources and live together in the same house. They enjoyed each other’s company, but were nonetheless lonely and without many friends. Wanting visitors, they came up with a plan: they posed a simple sign in their front yard, which read “Antiques.” Before long a man and his wife, out looking for bargains, knocked at their door. The sisters happily invited them in, served them tea and cookies, and engaged in conversation. Eventually the man looked at his watch, and asked, “Where are the antiques?” One of the sisters answered, “You’re looking at them.”
It is a good thing to age gracefully and with a sense of humor—though our society, with its emphasis on youth and usefulness, doesn’t always make this easy to do. Old age is looked upon as a burden much more often than as a blessing—yet the golden years of retirement can allow persons the leisure of doing many worthwhile things: traveling, visiting family and friends, keeping busy with hobbies, attending church more than once a week, reading for pleasure, learning new skills, volunteering in the community, and spending time in prayer and reflection in preparation for one’s upcoming encounter with God.
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John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, was once—at the age of 91—asked by a young woman, “And how is Mr. Adams today?” The elderly statesman replied, “Mr. Adams is very well, thank you. It is true that his house is falling apart. The foundations have settled, the rafters sag and the roof leaks a bit. He will be moving out almost any day now. But Mr. Adams is well, thank you, very well.” As this great American realized, as persons we are more than just our bodies—and so our lives should be centered on more than just physical and worldly concerns.
We’re often reminded that children are our nation’s most precious resource, and that’s true—but we should not overlook the wisdom and experience of our “seasoned citizens” who’ve contributed so much to our society, and who still have so much to offer. If we’re not yet elderly ourselves, we surely know several persons who are—and they would most likely greatly appreciate an occasional visit or favor from us (and who knows?—we just might enjoy ourselves or learn something worthwhile in the process).
The story of the elderly sisters reminds us that, like the bargain hunters who stopped in to see antiques, we too often value things more than people—and this is something we’d do well to change. The famous American author Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted, “As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.”
Let us make a point of looking for the beauty in all the older (and wiser) persons around us.