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Friday, July 1, 2016

The Just Right, Exactly Perfect Age

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I once asked a group of high school students at EMHS to write down what they felt was a truly ideal age. In other words, at what point would they feel they've reached a peak in their life, after which they would no longer be so eager for their next birthday?

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised at the result, but I was. The majority of these juniors and seniors chose an age somewhere between twenty and thirty.

I know our culture places high value on physical attractiveness and youthfulness, but demographically we are a society with a larger than ever proportion of older and retired people. So it seemed sad to have them see their "over the hill" point being even before mid-life. 

I'm sure most of these former students of mine have changed their minds on this and many other things since then, but wouldn't it be great to have our middle years, as well as our retiring and aging stages of life, be seen as looked-forward-to and truly blessed? 

Yesterday was my birthday. Alma Jean and I celebrated it with my next older sister Maggie and her good husband Alvin Schrock in their simple and hospitable home in a wooded area in Cumberland County. Maggie is the sister I was closest to, and she had just celebrated her 80th birthday eight days before.

To me, Maggie doesn't look a day over 55, and is still enjoying life as an active gardener and grandma. Much of our time together was spent in reminiscing and with catching up on our children and grandchildren. Maggie and Alvin's had just published an illustrated book for the family in honor of her birthday, complete with stories and photos of the families of each of their seven devoted children.

What better life could one hope for, I thought to myself. They have their share of some health concerns, thankfully none of them life threatening, but enjoy an unending supply of love from each other and from multiple offspring who adore them. 

So maybe 80 is just the right age, as long as ones health is still reasonably good and ones mind reasonably acute.

My own perfect age? I've decided that for the next 364 days my answer will be 77, in the spirit of the oft-quoted Robert Browning:

“Grow old along with me! 
The best is yet to be, 
The last of life, for which the first was made: 
Our times are in his hand 
Who saith, “A whole I planned, 
Youth shows but half; 
trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
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