Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Life-Changing Encounter with a Wise Senior Citizen

I hope you’re having a great day today. One thing I often say is that, each day, if we wake up horizontal and are able to get vertical without the aid of anyone or anything, that’s a day to be thankful for what we have.  

I’m always looking for ways to share some insight to help our readers put life into perspective. This weekend, I had one of those moments that just caused me to pause and ponder about the beauty of life so I thought I’d share it with this blog post.

This past Saturday, my family and I were grocery shopping. It’s one of those things we enjoy doing together. I would never have guessed that a simple evening in the grocery store would have inspired me as much as it did. I hope it inspires you as well.

As we walked down an aisle, I saw an old man walking towards us with a walking stick. He had such a pleasant, inviting look on his face that it made me want to strike up a conversation with him. We greeted each other and just started talking. He seemed enchanted with our little 11 month old son, playing with him and smiling. He said, “Guess how old I am?” I guessed, “82? 83?” He said, “No. I’m 98 years old.” I was awestruck! He seemed so relatively young and full of life as he walked with relative ease. It was amazing to know that he’s so close to being a century old.

One thing those who know me well can attest to is the fact that I have a soft spot in my heart for children and the elderly. They’re just so innocent and precious in my view. For the elderly, I am particularly drawn to them because they have so many years of wisdom that they can share with us younger folk. So when I’m in the presence of senior citizens, I always like to talk with them and ask probing questions so that I may learn a thing or two from them to help me live the best life possible.

I took the moment that evening to ask this gentleman what’s his secret to life. I wanted to know how some people his age are bed ridden in pain while he’s casually walking, shopping and smiling on a Saturday afternoon. I’ll never forget the beautiful words in his response, “It’s all about the family. I have 18 children, 23 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. They are my life.”  

That brought a smile to my face. Here we were – a young family with our entire lives ahead of us. And there was an older gentleman, looking so content and at peace, telling us that family is what it’s all about. He mentioned that he married 3 times. His first 9 kids were with the first wife.

I didn’t ask about how any of these marriages ended. I don’t know if there was a divorce or death or anything. I don’t know if he has a wife now. I didn’t ask. I just wanted him to share what he wanted to. The only thing I knew is that he just seemed to enjoy speaking of his life and sharing some wise words with us.

He told us, “Enjoy your life; eat, sleep, exercise; do everything in moderation – too much of anything isn’t good for you. Just enjoy what you do and do it in moderation.” Isn’t that profound? I could only just look, listen and learn because I knew the voice of wisdom was speaking.

He said that the reason he’s so content is that he has lived a full life and he’s had the chance to see his children have their own grandchildren. He’s surrounded by love and couldn’t ask for anything more. He encouraged my wife and me to continue to love each other and to always keep the lines of communication open. He said that the love we have for each other and for our kids will keep us going through all that life presents to us.

As we parted ways, I really felt as if I had a brief encounter with a great man. I almost had tears in my eyes, thinking about how fortunate I was to share just a short but special moment with him. We might not read about him in the news or see him on television but something about him sent a powerful message to me. And now I seek to share that message with you.

Life is beautiful – it really is. I’m sure that in that old man’s life, he’s had highs and lows. He’s had the privilege of seeing his children grow up. He’s lived and he’s loved. I’m sure that he’s experienced disappointment and regret. Yet, there he was – at age 98, undaunted by anything that may have come his way. He was just looking back with a smile and sharing what he’s learned with a younger, eager to listen man.

As I thought about him, I took a look at my own life. I know how much responsibility I have to carry out my daily tasks. I have a wife who loves me unconditionally; and two kids who are my whole world. Boy, I would love to see the day when I can be an old man at age 98, walking in the grocery store with a smile on my face telling another young, eager to listen young man that it’s all about the family.

Please note that the gentleman didn’t mention anything to me about having a grandiose house or luxury car. He didn’t mention anything about multi-million dollar investments or cruising the Mediterranean in a luxury yacht. All he mentioned was the love of family.

I’m not saying that the aforementioned items aren’t to be sought after. I like the finer things in life just like the next person. But sometimes as we pursue these things, our families become less significant to us – and in some extreme cases, it causes us to lose them in the process.

How tragic it would be if we gain all the material wealth that life has to offer but it costs us our families. Bonding with them is so much more significant than bonding with our possessions. When we’re in our last days, it’s not the wealth that we’ve acquired that’s going to give us the greatest memories; rather, it’s the love of family and friends and the lives that we touch along the way that will sustain us.

Perhaps you too can learn a thing or two from an innocent wise old man. Who knows if I’ll ever meet him again. But I do know that I will not forget that brief moment that I got to speak with him. It’s those moments that give us a true perspective on what life is all about.

I hope that you get the essence of the point I sought to make in this post. It’s a very simple lesson but still it’s so profound. Our families come first in all things. We can acquire great wealth but it’s all meaningless if we’re not able to enjoy it with our dear loved ones.

Hug your spouse, won’t you; and your kids while you’re at it. Shower them with your love and let them know how much you appreciate them. Whether you live to 98 or some other age, just know that, through each stage of life, the love of family is what it’s all about.

Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad


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