Those younger often look my way,
With pity looks to give
Yet this old body doesn’t mean I am dying,
But rather, that I have lived —Emily Nelson
One of her favorite movie directors is Robert Redford. She likes to describe the deliberate pace of his movies and the way his stories patiently unfold. I think this really captures the essence of her appreciation: she likes to see the stories patiently unfold. Like her own references to her grandparents, and now parents, she relishes their journeys and the reflections they cast of lives lived with meaning and value.
On a recent trip to northern California, we had the chance to slow down a bit and savor the natural beauty. From the antique furnishings in the little studio in which we stayed to the timelessly beautiful and rugged coastline, then beyond to ancient forests of massive redwoods, and finally the many fascinating people we encountered, she was always quick to point out what she described as the “beautifully old.” I was immediately struck by her reflection.
Our cast-away world of cheap goods, perpetual consumption, and blistering pace often leaves little room for the old, used, worn, or depleted. We gather our detritus in neatly organized containers for recycling or unceremonious dumping in landfills and then fill our storage facilities with items we no longer use but feel compelled to keep. In many ways, our consumption mentality extends to the oldest members of our society as we herd them into facilities looking for ways to better manage the challenges of their health, mental condition, or mobility more cost effectively.
Our cast-away world of cheap goods, perpetual consumption, and blistering pace often leaves little room for the old, used, worn, or depleted.
As I age, my definition of “old” continues to evolve and ages that once seemed ancient now appear quite young to me. A recent conversation with a retired man in his sixties reminded me of this as he described the difficulty of engaging with a world that didn’t seem particularly interested in his services or capabilities. Even with an amazingly accomplished professional life, this individual had found that his age was an impediment to finding meaningful work. One might argue in a macroeconomic fashion about job trends, skill sets, globalization and other broad concepts but they have little meaning to the individual seeking ways to be productive without recommitting to entirely new careers or even full time work.
Beautifully old. The expression still echoes across my mind. It implies value, worth, grace, and impact. Whether we consider old to be 65 or 85 makes little difference. There is beauty in aging and value in what it offers to those not yet there. Beautifully old suggests more than feeling a loss for what once was as it reminds us of what is now: weathered, wrinkled, worn, wise, gloriously alive, and valuable.
Beautifully old. The expression still echoes across my mind. It implies value, worth, grace, and impact.
We all have the opportunity to be our best, to reach our peak, in any phase of life in which we live. In fact, we are called to do so. Part of being our best is helping those around us be their best. Whether employees, friends, loved ones, or strangers. We make the most difference when we pour all of ourselves into the world around us, giving our best ever day. This could be charity but it doesn’t have to be. Our greatest gift could be the success we achieve that pulls others along with us, gives others around us purpose, or enables us to show others an example worth emulating.
I challenge you to recognize the beautifully old in the world around you. You may find it easy to appreciate beautifully old architecture or natural settings. Bring that appreciation to the people in your life who deserve it. See them and take a moment to consider what that means. Then step into the best version of yourself by deciding what you might do to make a difference.