My 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.