Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get Up Out of Your Seat

I’ve been thinking a lot about getting old.  I guess I think about it too much.  But, a milestone birthday usually sparks such thoughts.  I came across a piece in the Huffington Post by Billy Graham.  He’s getting ready to celebrate 93 years.  Yikes, that’s old.  I always thought it interesting that Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and my mother were all born in 1918.  He’s the last one remaining of this odd trio. 

Waiting for the bus to take Norwegians to Madison
Square Garden in 1957 to hear Billy Graham.
As usually, Graham was inspiring.  I remember going to Madison Square Garden on a bus with lots of Norwegians from my neighborhood in Brooklyn.  I remember wanting to “get up out of my seat” and go to the front.  I was six years old and the power of his preaching convicted me.  Of what?  I don't know...  Instead, holding my mother’s hand I walked the opposite direction so as not to miss the bus back to Brooklyn.  I remember the crowds of people and feelings so small.  Later, I would sit cross-legged in front of a round black and white TV screen and silently pray with Rev. Graham. 

Of late, I’ve been thinking about Maggie Kuhn.  You probably don’t know her.  I first heard about her while studying gerontology at the University of Missouri.  Her claim to fame was the founding of the Gray Panthers.  I was so excited to hear her as a new Senior Center Director in Connecticut. 

There she was with her bun and glasses.  She looked like she should be sitting in a rocking chair knitting.  However, she had sneakers on – she was spry and seemed ready to run a marathon.  Such energy – It was the mid-80’s and she was in her 80’s. 


I never forgot what she told us.  She told us fresh faced mostly young Senior Center Directors with big ideas to help the “old” that seniors and youth had a lot in common.    Old age and adolescence had many of the same issues.

While I no longer fight acne – although sometimes my hormones still rage… I think she is right.  As I looked in the mirror yesterday, thinking about my coming birthday, I thought – Maggie Kuhn was right. 

Daniel Pink in Drive aptly describes the angst of age.  You know you are old, but you know you aren’t done.  You know you still have a purpose.  You know that you have to find it.  Time is running out.  Yet, the culture tells you are done.  Ageism in the work place is rampant.  With nearly a doctorate I can't get a job at a Container Store or Target.  No I don't have a criminal record, I'm old.

The church focuses on youth and young marrieds.  The church offers you a pew and chance to ride a bus to go out to eat once a month.  It is assumed that your needs are social rather than the full depth of emotional and spiritual needs.  Schools are not ready for the returning non-traditional student who burns with passion to continue to serve.  It can be summed up as being marginalized.

Youth are marginalized as well.  They are told to wait. They are told you aren’t ready to contribute. They are taken on social trips rather than offered opportunities for deep meaning.  I think that might be why they leave the church in droves … they really don’t need another canoe trip or social event.  They need something of significance.  They are searching for their purpose.

Youth and old age are polar opposites and yet they are so similar.  Marginalization and angst over the future join them together.  I think we need "pastors for seniors" like we do youth pastors... I'd be a great one... sigh.............. Did you hear that God? 

As I looked in that mirror I thought yes, I feel like a teenager all over again.  I do not know what my future holds. I fear it and yet, I want to contribute.  There is still a purpose.  At 93, Billy Graham calls me again to “get up out of my seat.”  I better hurry because the bus is waiting.

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