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Seventy Shades of Gray
Oct 3, 2012 - 8:07:52 AM

“The length of our days are threescore years and ten…”
Psalm 90:10
On becoming a septuagenarian, author/columnist George Will referenced this biblical passage observing, wryly, that he was then “playing with house money.” Having recently attained that age, I am both bummed and blessed.
I am bummed because this ‘milestone birthday’ (those ending with a zero) I may actually have reached the stage of life where I qualify to be, darn it all, ‘old.’ I might have reached the tipping point where people stop asking, “how does it feel to be [fill in the number]?” on your birthday and start saying, “you look good for [fill in the number].” I certainly don’t feel old and try every day not to think or act old. But am I? The Psalms suggest it and I’m reminded of the proclamation in the old gospel song that, “the bible tells me so.”
I’ll grant you that being in my age group can have a few drawbacks. You use more four-letter words, such as ‘what?’ and ‘when?” You forget people’s names, but occasionally get away with it because they have forgotten yours. You spend increasing amounts of time trying to find – what was it I was looking for? Yet, being older (I suggest the politically-correct term should be ‘less youthful’) also has its advantages. You qualify for all kinds of purchase discounts. You can play golf from a set of tees closer to the green. You can meet your other less-youthful friends at Publix supermarket every Wednesday for senior day. You can stay busy but with far fewer deadlines. You can care less about the many minor annoyances and disappointments in life and not take things too seriously (as shown on the accompanying graph). After all, no one gets out of this alive.
Most of all I feel very blessed. Over these 70 years (25,000+ days, whew!) I have enjoyed
• Wonderful family – Grace (many of you know her by her real name), caring parents, four children, and nine grandchildren
• Engaging and enjoyable friends
• Interesting avocation, rewarding for its sense of accomplishment as much as for its remuneration
• Fun activities, hobbies, travel and leisure
• Opportunities to give back to others
I would offer that those building blocks create the foundation for a happy life. Add the critical ingredient of consciously choosing to be positive and optimistic and you will not only survive the speed bumps life puts on your path, but you will enjoy both the journey as well as the destination. As a country philosopher once mused: Live a good and honorable life. Then, when you get older and look back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
Since you are still reading, I’ll add one more tidbit – you know we less-youthful people have a tendency to keep talking if you don’t interrupt us. It is a vignette from the Internet (I’d give more attribution if I could). As the story goes (with modest modification by yours truly), a professor stood before his philosophy class with an array of items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor lifted a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed. He next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’ The professor then retrieved two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the truly important things in that life---God, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would be incredibly full.”
”The pebbles are the other things that matter such as your job, house and car. The sand is everything else---the small stuff.”
“If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the golf ball or even the pebbles. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised a hand and inquired what the wine represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a glass of wine with a friend."
If you have reached the age of ‘threescore years and ten,’ drop by my house sometime. I’d love to share some time over a glass of wine.

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