Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
May 27, 2001
My, how time flies when you are having fun! Like most people I have had that delightful response to life many times. The truth is, time does seem to fly and the older we get, the faster time seems to fly.
It seems like only yesterday that my wife, then my sweetheart, and I walked across the stage with the graduates of Wetumpka High School, class of 1950. We were full of enthusiasm and eager to make our mark in the world. While we went our separate ways, many within our class have kept in touch and enjoyed many reunions over the years.
Our 25th reunion was marked by sadness because several of our classmates had died, some with cancer, others in accidents. Deathís intrusion so soon jarred us and forced much sober reflection on the brevity of life. Divorce had reared its ugly head so we were disturbed also by the demise of several marriages. I still remember the tears many of us shed as we met in the Community House that year.
In contrast with that somber assembly, our 50th class reunion was remarkably joyful. We laughed a lot, mostly at how old everyone else look compared to ourselves. Our joviality seemed to be sparked by the realization that, while many of our group had died, we were to our amazement still alive. It was a strange feeling, joy mixed with both sadness and gratitude. Sadness that some of our friends walked with us no more. Gratitude that we were still blessed with the precious gift of life.
As we watch todayís graduates walking, older geezers like myself are sorely tempted to stop the youngsters and give them some good advice. The problem is that most of them are either not interested or too busy with their own agendas to give us an ear.
Still, hope springs eternal, and we long for even one of the bright graduates to stand still long enough to listen to our sage advice.
So, if one should ask what an old man thinks, what advice would we give? At least this:
First, stand still for a few minutes and grasp the fact that time flies and every hour is precious. With that in mind, do more than seize the moment; enjoy every moment and squeeze every once of joy of it that you can. Truly there is no way to know how many days of life you have before you, so count each one a priceless gift.
Second, refuse to entertain the notion that you will be happy one day when you are able to buy and own the "things" that comprise the American dream. Believe me, "the good life" is not something you can buy! Indeed, some of us learned the hard way that worshiping at the altar of plastic money results not in happiness but in grievous disappointment.
Third, live within your means. Discipline yourself to wait until you can afford some of the things you think you must have now. By waiting you will spare yourself the embarrassment of debt you cannot handle. And whatever you think about the Bible, do know that the good book is correct when it warns that the borrower is a slave to the lender. Learn to be content with what you have and let the Smiths keep up the Jones.
If you want to prove something, prove to your friends that you do not subscribe to the philosophy that bigger is better. Focus on the bigger blessings and in time some of the bigger things may come to you. If not, you will still be a winner.
Fourth, wrestle with basic questions. Three come to mind: Who is God? Who am I? What does God want me to do with my life? Struggle with these questions until you have some answers you can live with. Take care not simply to go with the flow and allow yourself to be one more person carried along by the "herd" of humanity. You can choose to live a "guided" life or you can drift along with the herd of people who donít have any idea where they are going.
Fifth, puzzle your way to some kind of work which benefits other people and which you can enjoy doing. In our world there are "givers and takers." While balanced living involves some of both, you will find the greatest significance in being more of a giver than a taker. A life spent giving yourself for the good of others will be a great life, and a great life is more valuable than "the good life." In the end what you have done for others is far more important than what you have acquired.
Sixth, strive in your marriage to be a blessing to your mate instead of focusing on "your rights." You are on a dead-end street when your chief concern is your own happiness. Indeed happiness is not gaining by seeking it. It comes only as the byproduct of giving yourself unselfishly to someone you love, and love is primarily wanting the best for another. Love requires that you give up your demands and concentrate on what you can do as offerings of compassion, tenderness, and understanding. And never forget that love wins; nothing else does.
Seven, donít look now but old age creeping up on you faster than you realize. If you are fortunate to live 70 or 80 years, you will be there before you know it. So make the most of every day. Let frowning and fussing give way to smiles and affirmations. Life is too short to spend much time grumbling and complaining about many things. Fix what is fixable; walk away from the things you have no control over. Care about your friends. Enjoy the sunrise, the birds, the flowers, the changing seasons, and little children. And fret not about your own dying. While the average of death is still one to a person, you can if you will still live each day as a gift.
Now, dear friends, since our graduates are too busy for such advice in these exciting days of graduation, may I humbly suggest that you save this column, if you like it, and put it in your dear graduateís stocking at Christmas. That way, you and I both can live today with the joyous anticipation of being a small blessing to someone later on, down the road.
Cheers to all our graduates! A great life we wish for each of you!