‘Somewhere along the way I realised I would never amount to very much. What a relief that has been.’
Thought for the week: Tony D’Souza makes good time
‘If we are getting older it will be harder to acknowledge that we have not been called to spectacular service, that we are unlikely now to make a stir in the world, that our former dreams of doing some great healing work had a great deal of personal ambition in them.
A great many men and women have had to learn this unpalatable lesson – and then have discovered that magnificent opportunities lay all around them. We need not go to the ends of the earth to find them; we need not be young, clever, fit, beautiful, talented, trained, eloquent or very wise. We shall find them among our neighbours as well as among strangers, in our own families as well as in unfamiliar circles – magnificent opportunities to be kind and patient and understanding…This is a vocation just as truly as some more obviously seen as such – the vocation of ordinary men and women called to continual, unspectacular acts of loving kindness in the ordinary setting of every day. They need no special medical boards before they embark on their service, need no inoculation against anything but indifference and lethargy and perhaps a self-indulgent shyness. How simple it sounds; how difficult it often is; how possible it may become by the grace of God.’ (Quaker faith & practice 21.43, Clifford Haigh, in the Friend 1962)
Age came to me surreptitiously. It was my knees that went first, the legacy of years of jogging on pavements. Then it was my waistline. Age steals upon all of us, but there is also a suddenness to it. One moment I was a schoolboy in the park, the next I could not run for the bus. That’s how it happens: slowly, yet suddenly.
Somewhere along the way I realised I would never amount to very much. And what a relief that has been – to let go of the illusions of my younger self. Many of them were laughably grandiose. I will never write the great English novel; nobody will want my autograph. For this, and much else, I am profoundly grateful.
Most of all, I am grateful because more has come to me with age than has been lost to it. Principally, a softening of the heart. It is the process of giving over the self into the hands of God. Through attending silent worship and setting aside time for stillness at home, the personality is shaped by the Grace of God.
Now every day is an adventure. My final years are a blessing. I am liberated from expectations. I am free to attend to what really matters – whatever is in front of me. Attending to what love requires means I might find myself visiting an elderly neighbour. It will certainly require a kind word or a smile of encouragement. If I ‘Live up to the light within me, more will be given me’ and this is the magnificent everyday. We work in God, through God and with God. We are all invited to join, and once we accept, participation becomes a joy.
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