I’ll start with a compliment to Culver’s restaurant in Meridian. A friend and I recently indulged in the turtle sundae at Culver’s, and I have nothing but praise for that taste treat.
The employee who took our order gave us the “young lady” discount, which we happily accepted. As we took our sundaes to the outdoor seating area, I observed to my friend that my white hair must be a guarantee of senior discounts. People probably assume I won’t be offended by being offered a senior discount because I’m willing to leave my hair its natural color.
We laughed and moved on to other topics. Later, my quip came back to me. Why would Culver’s call their senior discount the “young lady” discount? Are people over 60 really that skittish about being considered senior citizens?
I think the answer is yes, and I have heard that some people don’t like to be offered a discount on the basis of their age. We use phrases like, “fifty years young” when stating someone else’s age. If a friend says they’re old, we counter with, “You’re not old.”
Evidently, being old is almost unspeakable. I could go on to discuss the billions spent on Botox and being forever blond, but I think the point is obvious to anyone who gives it a few moments of thought.
This reflection is not meant to critique anyone’s efforts to look their best and maintain their health. Cataract surgery and modern dental technology have done wonders for me. Plastic surgery has corrected minor and major issues for millions of people. And this isn’t America if you can’t style and color your hair as you please.
Instead, I’d like to talk about the benefits of being old when you are a church member. First of all, you have company. People who regularly attend church tend to skew older. Chances are that you’ve known some of your church friends for years, and can look back on pleasant memories of shared activities with them. You can appreciate Christian fellowship more as there are fewer demands on your time and less pressure to achieve life goals. Life together softens.
This is lovely, but what I think truly brings a sense of rest and peace to the life of an older Christian is allowing yourself to ease into the flow of life.
I can only speak for myself, so I’ll try to put my observations into suitable words. Here’s an example of what I’m trying to express. I worked in my church’s nursery for a couple of years. Kids I remember from those days are now in college, or perhaps even married. I don’t need to embarrass them with my memories of them bringing a special blanket to the nursery or reading Hop on Pop. I can look at these young adults and think of how the everyday miracle of human development continues without my having to do anything but appreciate it and give thanks for it. There is a river, whose streams make glad the city of God (Psalm 46:4 NIV).
How beautiful this process is. It’s wonderful to relax from the striving of my younger years and allow God’s creation to enfold me.
This doesn’t mean I want to disengage from the world. I’m still emotional about the causes that matter to me. I make donations to things I believe in, bore my elected representatives with my emails, and keep up with life in our society.
After my friend and I finished our sundaes, we took a walk in Kleiner Park in an attempt to burn off the calories we had just taken in. When we stopped to rest, we saw a younger couple with their toddler son. The little boy was kicking a ball around on the grass, getting a little help here and there from his father. My friend and I don’t have grandchildren, but we smiled at this child with some of the affection we would have shown a grandchild of our own. It’s a pleasure to feel the benevolent glow of grandparent-like feelings towards young children. It’s why I want children I’ve never known and will never see to have a good education and positive prospects in life.
Older Christians have the consolation of facing the challenges of aging with Christian companions. Some of the fear we naturally feel about physical deterioration and eventual death is relieved by seeing others go before us. We saints and sinners, with our sensible shoes, walkers, and canes, move along together. Unlike older people trying desperately to identify as young (or at least middle-aged), and feeling isolated and alone in the process, we can take comfort in being who we are with others who will hold doors for us and scatter salt ahead of us when the path gets icy.