“If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.” ~ Unknown
I came across a funny video the other day about how young people view older people. I’m posting the video here.
How funny to watch the youngsters act out how an “old” person would walk across the street, text a message or do a jumping jack. And then to see them blown away by the attitudes and actions of these elders is simply a fun way to waste a few minutes of your day, and it shows us all how stereotypes can limit our thinking.
But the video did what it was intended to do, and it got me thinking about age and beauty and how we value these concepts of what the world tells us has worth.
I have a number of “older” friends, but there are two of them that keep me hopping, and I spend time with them whether it is dropping by their home to chat or taking them out to eat to give them something to do out of their ordinary structured day. One of my friends is male and the other is female. As they are getting older, 92 and 94, I am watching their bodies age and slow down, but not their minds. And the things I learn from them through our conversations are nuggets of truth that I probably would never be able to mine without their desire to share with me some lessons in life they have seen play out. I have learned through the years that they really want to warn me about, or tell me or teach me about a topic they feel is important to my understanding. I am richer for the friendship with these two sweet (and occasionally grumpy) souls, not only because I love them and they love me, but also because they still have a need to teach and share and explain how they see the world and how I should view it with a lens that is different than my own ordinary set of glasses.
I also have the good fortune to interact with the other end of the lifeline, which is with the young people I coach for college interviews, medical school, pageants or jobs. And what the kids teach me is almost like going back to school, with their stories of trials and tribulations of school work, friend problems, first time job issues and not to mention a whole new language that I have to keep up with so I can communicate with them without them thinking, Ms. Deb is too old to be cool enough to be their coach.
Old–that’s a word I don’t think I actually ever thought would reflect me, but, lo and behold, the years slipped up on me and AARP sent me a card and magazine to prove it. How they knew I’d turned the magic number is a surprise to me.
I wonder what would change, “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.” I want to spend just a minute on the value and intrinsic worth of the souls that surround us whether it is family or friends or co-workers.
As you well know, there is a difference between our souls and bodies. The basic understanding is that the body is our physical being–our eyes, lungs, heart and ears. Our body is visible and is recognized by others; our bodies have a beginning and an end. Our soul on the other hand is our spiritual being and, although no one really sees a soul visually, I am sure many of you can tell when someone’s spirit is felt. One’s understanding of the soul also goes to your personal belief that your soul either goes on through eternal life or comes back into the world as someone or something else. For my newsletter today, I am not going to get into the conversation of the soul (although I do believe that is a very important topic) because I want to focus on the idea that if our eyes would really be opened, we could see the depth of a person’s heart and mind, instead of the ever-changing physical body.
I am sure you have known some outwardly physically attractive people who were as ugly as an octopus on the inside, just as you know some “nice enough” looking people who were so beautiful on the inside that it hurt to look at them because of their lovely spirit that shone through their whole being.
I love the quote by C.S. Lewis that says,”… you are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” When I spend time with my elders, they still tell me of things they want to do. They are not interested in giving up because, as they see the world around them, they choose to find their place and space and do what they can with their limited eyesight and physical ability to live the days in their lives to the fullest.
How about you? You’re no doubt young, healthy, wealthy and wise (enough). What are you doing today that will pay dividends tomorrow or twenty years from now? As we change physically, what will be remembered long after we are gone is our spirit and the memory we leave with others.
Keeping with the idea of leaving a spirited legacy, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Generosity of spirit will pay dividends for a lifetime and beyond. When you show sensitivity, thoughtfulness and kindness towards others, especially the elderly, it allows you to be more generous with yourself. It is a formula for success that has never gone out of style. We all remember the people who gave of themselves to make us feel wanted, needed and secure. Being generous in every way you can–time, money, love, even kind words–will be remembered long after you’re gone. In this area of your life, don’t be a cheapskate. Not only is it bad manners, but it would be considered poor in spirit.
I also find that a compassionate spirit when dealing with the elderly is a great reminder that we need to be compassionate, not only with our families, but also to ourselves. No sane person of moral character is going to be cruel and brutal to the elderly. Understanding that dealing gently with the infirmed or fragile is a visible and physical reminder to be tender with ourselves and those we claim to love, but remember that compassion is not just for others. Truly healthy people understand that it is also for themselves.
Don’t let the joy of compassion go missing in your life and the lives of our busy, stressed and worried friends and family. If you have to be the one with a compassionate spirit, consider yourself lucky to have been chosen for this most excellent opportunity.
Arthur H. Stainback said, “The value of compassion cannot be over-emphasized. Anyone can criticize. It takes a true believer to be compassionate. No greater burden can be borne by an individual than to know no one cares or understands.”
Finally, if there is one thing most of my elderly friends miss and wish for, it is the strength of spirit of their youth. We can all agree that strong spirit helps nurture a strong mind. Being strong matters as we age and not just physically, although that does seem to be one of the greatest ailments of age. The ability to lift yourself up or be able to open a jar or simply do the things you used to do seems to be a conversation that I have with my friends almost every time I visit. And since we all can agree that growing old isn’t for the faint of heart, we know that it takes strength to live your best life. Having a strong spirit helps develop a strong mind. Keeping mentally sharp is perhaps the one thing that bridges the divide and equals the playing field. A lifetime of lessons looked back upon will be the handbook for a successful life.
Let me add that being strong in our own lives, whether it is mentally, physical or emotionally, is a gift that we often take for granted, so today figure out what you need to do to take long-term care of yourself to nourish your strong, compassionate and generous spirit.
A quick shout-out of thanks for reading my weekly blog. I would be most grateful if you would share this post by the social media links below or forward this email to a friend and suggest they sign up for the weekly dose of encouragement. I am reading this weeks podcast in the link below – it is a quick 11 minute listen. You can listen now or download for later. See all my podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher, Podkicker and Soundcloud. Thank you and have a great day!