Serendipity for January 2011

You’re as young as you act, so act accordingly! 

 After an early morning eye doctor’s appointment, I visit a fast food restaurant for a quick breakfast at bargain prices. Without inquiring if I qualify, a senior discount on coffee is mine. I’m uncertain whether to be pleased, bargains are my deal, or disappointed. Not wanting to seem disgruntled, I don’t ask what age qualifies as senior. If the age is older than I am, my delight at saving money will diminish. I mull this over throughout the morning, unsure of why it’s even an issue, but eventually making some semblance of peace with it. In the grand scheme of life’s joys and trials, why is age important, and why do I care how old a very young person perceives me to be? She’s probably had experience in not offering the discount and then enduring the wrath of disgruntled customers. Likely she’s made the decision to give the discount even if people look too young to qualify. Why that explanation is satisfying to me, I’m not sure. But it is.

  Age has never mattered to me, and I’ve always laughed about others, including a relative or two who were sensitive about it. You can’t help how old you are. The calendar moves ahead with or without permission. Looking young can be attributed to great genetics and health, diligent maintenance, or pure luck. Or some combination of any or all. Youthful appearance is not the same as sterling character. Sometimes we give greater prominence to facial beauty than we do personality, intelligence or a virtuous lifestyle. 

 Still there are those nagging doubts about youthful vitality and how to achieve it. I’ve worked with the senior population long enough to know that numbers are absolutely useless for defining “old” or “young.” We’ve all met folks who are old at 50, and those who are delightfully youthful at 85. At first glance, it might be appearance, but attitude, humor and an adventurous spirit are much more important for maintaining freshness and vigor.

 At the eye doctor’s that morning, I was the picture of youth. At the mall, I’m definitely in the senior category. I’ve not changed in between those two visits, but the population at each place is considerably different. I’m blessed to have numerous friends who are much younger than I am and the disparity in our ages is never an issue. It does allow for some humorous interactions, but it’s flattering to realize they don’t care how many candles were on my last birthday cake.

  On my refrigerator is a magnet announcing my 45th high school class reunion in September. I look at the date amazed that so many years have gone by. I watch family videos and struggle to believe my daughters are grown with preschoolers of their own. Sometimes I experience deep concern that I spent all that time wisely realizing whether I did or didn’t, the time is gone.

 Maybe that’s the lesson. If you’ve lived long enough to have grandchildren and an upcoming 45th class reunion, you’re going to see many experiences reflected in your face and demeanor. Give thanks for the opportunities, learn from the mistakes, and never quit trying. And refuse to give a second thought to how old someone thinks you are. You’re as young as you act, so act accordingly.

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