What Makes The Golden Years Golden?

goldMy grandparents lived to be quite elderly. My grandmother lived to be 93, and my grandfather lived to be 100. I hear people talking all the time about advances in science and medicine, and that in the future it may be common for people to survive past 100 years old. My grandfather enjoyed his final years, just happy to have made it to 100. It sounds great, but I remember quite well my grandmother complaining that “The golden years are crap.” To her there was nothing golden about being elderly. Her legs made it very difficult for her to walk. She took dozens of pills a day, suffered pains and in the last eight years of her life, blindness. Most of her friends and family were dead. The years were anything but golden to her.

My grandmother and grandfather both lived to advanced age, but they had a different experience of those years because of their attitudes toward them. My grandmother hated the limitations of age and complained bitterly. My grandfather accepted the limitations and still managed to get the most out of the days he had. He was happy to be around and enjoyed whatever he was able to do. Having a good attitude makes all the difference.

I recently attended a national meeting other Messianic leaders, people I have been friends with as well as others I have argued with and battled with for over 40 years. Some were theological disagreements, others were methodological, some were competitive, and others were personal. I hadn’t seen some of them for more than 10 to 20 years.

Maybe it was because a very like-able, friendly colleague of ours recently passed away which gave us a new appreciation for one another; maybe it because I recently recovered from a life threatening illness myself and I personally was happy to be among my friends; maybe it was because we all mellowed; but for some reason, the old arguments didn’t seem to matter anymore. It wasn’t that I changed my views or they changed theirs; I didn’t care that we differed, I was just happy to see everyone, and be glad for the good things they were doing, to affirm them and the productiveness they were experiencing in their lives. It was like people who were part of different organizations were no longer competitors or people who were doing it wrong, and became co-workers in the grand scheme of things. Co-workers and friends. I was able to affirm people and their work even though they differed from mine.

It gave me pause to think about the many years of struggling with and against one another, and it makes me wonder if it was worth it. Couldn’t we have accomplished more and all benefited more if we could have encouraged one another and respected one another instead of taking stands? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have standards or that we shouldn’t care about anything, but I am saying that sometimes we value our deeply held convictions more than we value other people. I’ve always known from an ideological position that people matter more than things, but my behavior was not always in line with my values. We all affirm that people matter, but we act as if our “things,” our ideas, agendas, etc., matter more.

We all seem to have valid reasons to put aside things we know are important for the sake of our agendas, and to us, doing so is justifiable. I encounter this all the time in my work with Chevra. When I contact leaders about coming to their congregations to share about our work helping elderly holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe and Israel, I am usually treated very cordially, but am often told that “now isn’t a good time,” and its usually because they are having a building program, or raising money for some project, etc. They affirm Chevra is a worthy cause, and maybe some other time they can do something, but not now. It is true that there are other worthy causes, and people don’t have to support Chevra, the fact is, at the rate holocaust survivors are dying, helping them is a limited time opportunity. In the next five to seven years, they will all be gone and beyond our help. If people really value our work and want to help, the time is now.

If you want your actions to reflect your values, the time is now. It’s the only time we have. I want my years to be more golden as I get older, but even now. I tend to call people more often. I also tend to tell them how much I value them and appreciate them. Having golden years come from having a golden attitude toward people as well as events of our lives. Your attitude can make all the difference. Do what you can, and let your attitude be positive. This could be your last shot to do good and be a blessing. Make it a good one.

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6 thoughts on “What Makes The Golden Years Golden?

  1. I really appreciate this blog, although I wish you would have posted it two weeks ago before I took a trip to visit my father and mother in Pennsylvania. My parents are avowed Democrats, and all I ended up hearing was Obama is wonderful, listen to how wise he is and how terrible it is to have the Republicans handcuffing him and his agenda, and what a terrible person Romney is. We got into a few very heated arguments. After a few days of that, I decided that: a) I do not get to see my parents except once a year; b) they are 85 years old and for me to be with or appreciate; so c) why am I being this way and professing that I know better; when d) I should just be enjoying being with them and having them know that I love them. By the 4th day there, that is what I did, and I was happier through the rest of my visit with them. What you said makes a lot of sense and should be applied to everyone in our lives. Learn to have a good attitude about your life and it will affect others around you. Love the friends you have left….and appreciate the people you know. Being a blessing to others really does make a difference in your life as well as in their lives. Thank you!!!

  2. How heartwarming to read your account of the leaders camaraderie… as a Messianic ‘underling’ (non-leader) it has been difficult to watch all the battles, divisions etc. I pray this will continue. Also, since I just celebrated entering a new decade, I am encouraged and challenged by what you have shared. Toda raba… i am printing this off to meditate on it more.
    Blessings from Zion
    Hadassah

  3. This really strikes a chord with me as I’ve not been involved in the Messianic movement for some years now (say it is because of work schedule, etc. — but really it is more about other things) though this is really my “heart” as a non-Jewish (I think) Messianic believer. Perhaps this statement will encourge my family and I to reconnect, also before it is too late…!

  4. How wonderful to find out that we can be friends with our former “adversaries.” I guess that is what we sometimes miss-out when we become too involved in religion or in spiritual movements, and become so wrapped up in our own particular doctrines, theologies, and new found revelations, etc… if we really think about it we have more in common with each other than we differ….. We all believe in the G_d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and we all are followers of the Master. And, finally we are all humans…But our differences are still there and more often they take precedence….Oh well, makes one longs for that Day when He comes to unite all and to make all things new….shalom!

  5. Ha! I have it the other way around. When we go to visit our daughter and family, all we hear is snide remarks about how much more wonderful things Mr. Obama could do if he weren’t hampered by no-good Republicans. They hate their Governor Christie even worse than they hate us. We try our level best to keep quiet and enjoy their company, but it has now progressed to the point that we are no longer welcome in their home, and are often shunned by their adult daughters, except for the one who converted to Judaism. She loves Obama too, but she loves us more and is always happy to see us.

    I think Judaism teaches a much higher level of tolerance than aetheism and Christianity do.

    Dave

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