DAY 54: Monday 11 May
Good morning all
The past 8 weeks have brought so many changes. We have travelled less; we have probably eaten more; we have queued to just get into supermarkets; we have communicated virtually rather than face to face. We haven’t been able to meet in groups at the Chapel. But we have saved money by not visiting the hairdresser (I’m not sure if I’m styling to look like John the Baptist or Samson) and we’ve saved even more by not going away on holiday. But one thing that hasn’t changed – none of us have stopped getting older.
Here's another of those stories from Jeff Lucas…
A Rite of Passage
Clutching my ticket for a brief jaunt on the London Underground, I squeezed myself into an already crammed carriage (oh the joys of rush hour) and grabbed hold of one of those dangling straps. My journey would be brief - through just five stations - but it would be memorable. I hadn't anticipated that I was about to navigate a rite of passage.
A striking Muslim lady sat nearby. She smiled up at me, and then stood, uttering a sentence that froze my soul: ‘Please, sir, do please sit down. Have my seat.’ What? I checked behind main to make sure that she was not being charitable to a slightly, bandy-legged 97-year old who must surely be lurking close by. But she was speaking to me. In a millisecond, the horror of the moment broke over me. Apparently, I had become that poor old chap who looks like he's going to collapse at any moment; the frail-looking pensioner that younger people might offer a seat to. I stammered my thanks but added a polite refusal. Not only was I perfectly able to stand, but this was a woman offering her seat to me, a man. I'm not ancient but I am old enough to remember the time when gentlemen offered their seats to ladies (although I'm never sure if that's culturally acceptable these days - one may risk being slapped around the head with a copy of a large book by Germaine Greer).
Having muttered my ‘thanks, but no thanks’, reply, I discovered the lady was determined in her politeness: ‘No, please - I insist - have my seat.’ And with that she moved away, down the carriage. Further refusal would be churlish. I reluctantly sat down, feeling 20 years older.
Looking across the carriage at my own reflection in the window, I realised that an ageing man was staring back at me. I used to have a lot of hair, and had even had it permed in the past, forming a ridiculous canopy that might have gotten me work as a temporary bus shelter. But now the grey has driven the brown away, and what's left of my hair forms a symbolic, stranded peninsula.
It's jet lag, I told myself, that's why I look older today. But my last flight had been more than a week prior so that explanation wouldn't fly (literally). Desperately, I wondered if her faith had anything to do with her offer. Was there something in the Koran about giving up a seat on a train for strangers? In the end I decided to just be glad and grateful. A big city like London can be an emotional wasteland, where thoughtfulness and kindness are as scarce as oxygen on Mars. This lady’s gracious action was lovely and thought provoking.
As I sat there musing, the train relentlessly carrying me through those tunnels towards my destination, I realised: fighting getting older is useless. It's where all of us are heading if we are spared to live long enough to see that season. So why not celebrate it rather than dread it?
As Christians we hold a Bible that honours the elderly and never dismisses them, yet ageism still rears its ugly head in the church. I know - I've contributed to it in days gone by. My skin crawls as I remember making disparaging remarks about one church during a sermon insisting that there were only ‘three old ladies and a dead cat’ in the congregation. Stunningly it didn't occur to me at the time that lining up elderly females with a deceased feline was hardly respectful and obviously hurtful.
So, I've made a decision (one I'll surely have to reaffirm again and again): getting older is something I'll try to embrace, not fight. I'll neither hanker hello for the past, nor dread the future, but endeavour to live fully in the now. We who follow Jesus live in the paradox of being a people committed to live one day at a time, yet with an eternity that has no horizon stretching before us. Unwittingly, the polite lady on the Tube had given me more than a seat for five minutes - she had nudged me towards a helpful shift in attitude.
And it was then that I glanced across at my own reflection in the window again. The same ageing chap stared back at me still: but now he was smiling.
Proverbs 16:31 - Grey hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
2 Corinthians 4:16 - So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
Psalm 71:17-18 - O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those yet to come.
Joel 2:28 -“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
Here’s a Hymnalong that hopefully will encourage those of us who are getting older
· Jean Cussons has fallen from a chair in the Care Home. Paramedics were called but she has not broken anything so was not taken to hospital but has now been confined to her room.
Please remember Sheila Hanks and Mike Smith as they anticipate surgery this week
MAKE YOU SMILE:
An elderly widow and widower had been dating for about 5 years. The man finally decided to ask her to marry. She immediately said "Yes".
The next morning when he awoke, he couldn't remember what her answer was! "Was she happy? I think so, wait, no, she looked at me in a funny way..."
After about an hour of trying to remember but to no avail, he got on the telephone and gave her a call.
Embarrassed, he admitted that he couldn't remember her answer to his marriage proposal.
"Oh" she said. "I'm so glad you called. I remembered saying yes to someone, but I couldn't remember who it was".
A devout churchgoing lady had passed away.
Her husband and daughter went to the stonemason to agree wording for the headstone. They wanted to include recognition of the lady’s devotion to God, expressed in local Yorkshire dialect.
A few days later the husband and daughter returned to the stonemason’s premises to view the finished headstone.
They were surprised to read ‘She were thin’. The husband pointed out to the stonemason that he’d missed off the ‘E’.
By the funeral day, the corrected headstone had been installed at the grave but now read “EEEH She were thin’.
Enjoy the rest of today – you’ll have to stay indoors as it’s too cold to go out!
Wesley & Karen