I am sometimes reminded I am an “older” woman. I look down at my hands and see they bear the evidence of my age. Good hands, still strong and able, but undeniable proof that I have chosen to live a life that includes physical labor along with my time spent on writing and with students. Hands that bear witness that I am no longer twenty or thirty or even forty years old, but have, in fact, moved beyond the fifties and am now in my sixties. Early sixties, I might counter, but sixties, nonetheless. How is that possible? As my daddy used to say to me when I was growing up, “I was sixteen just about a minute and a half ago.”
I am young by the standards of the old and old by the standards of the young. Older people sometimes chuckle when they hear my age and say, “You’re barely a teenager;” younger people occasionally offer me their seats on public transport, a sure sign they see me as ancient. In the spirit of honesty, I must admit that I generally accept those kind offers, not because I am so worn out that I need to rest (which occasionally is the case), but rather because the kindness was so graciously given. Who am I not to reward good manners?
I believe my older status provides me with some perspective I may not have had at an earlier age. I understand that life can take unexpected turns – not just for me, but for everyone. Also, I accept that people are imperfect, which on first blush feels like a pain in the rear-end, but over time, brings solace. Primarily because I count as people, too, and God only knows how truly imperfect I am. Moreover, I have come to accept that embracing a belief system that provides some guidance and answers in life can be especially helpful, just as long as that belief system isn’t so narrow that is cultivates hatred and prejudice. After all, the goal of a good belief system is to bring peace and contentment, not breed anger and contempt.
As an older person, I recognize that sometimes I need guidance from others who have walked before me or have learned from their own hard-won experience or have taught themselves the information that I so desperately need to know or learn. That is when I turn and say, “Could you lend a hand?”
Primarily, I have learned that we human beings want one another, need one another, depend on one another to help in our lives. We are not meant to live in isolation. We are meant to coexist.
The goal, of course, is to live in peace.
That is the challenge.