Jun 16, 2011

Inspirational Email

Recently opened another of multiple chain emails that end up in my inbox.   This one hit close to home, as I've been grappling with aging and life-purpose issues lately.  Because it came with the usual "pass it on" warnings, I dutifully forwarded to people I thought wouldn't get terribly irritated.   I did find it inspiring, though, absent the promises for a miracle, etc.   Thought I'd post it to share or reflect upon at a future time...

The first day of school,  our professor introduced  himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know.   I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.  I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose.  I'm eighty-seven years old.  Can I give you a hug?"  I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!"    And she gave me a giant squeeze.  "Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.

" To meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids..." she jokingly replied.  "No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.   "I always dreamed of having a college education.  Now I'm getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.  We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop.  I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with    me.   Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.  She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students.  She was living it up.   At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet.

I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.  As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her 3 x 5 cards on the floor.   Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and said,    "I'm sorry I'm so jittery.   I gave up beer for Lent,  and this whiskey is killing me!   I'll never get my speech back in order,  so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed, she cleared her throat and began.   "We do not stop playing because we are old;  we grow old because we stop playing.   There are few secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success.   You have to laugh and find humor every day.   You've got to have a dream.  When you lose your dreams, you die.   There are so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!   There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.   If you are 19 years old, lie in bed for a full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn 20 yrs old.    If I am 87 years old and stay in bed for a year and don’t do anything,  I’ll turn 88.   Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.  The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for  things we didn’t do.   The only people who fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."    She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.   At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.  One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.   Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

These words have been passed along in loving memory of Rose:
  • Growing older is mandatory.  Growing up is optional. 
  • We make a living by what we get;   we make a life by what we give. 
  • God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.   
  • If God brings you to it,  He will bring you through it.