Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 451 (202) Courage

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery. i've entitled this podcast "Courage"

“I just feel so bad about this election” my daughter said, “There just doesn’t seem to be any good choices. It is just so depressing.” This is when her old retired father needed to impart some wisdom; something to help her cope. I’m not sure I did. I said something like , “You need to get use to it. It won’t get any better as you get older. It seems like the world will end but it doesn’t. We just keep blundering along.” Not a very profound or helpful answer but there it is.

Imparting wisdom seems like it should be a specialty for the retired. We have survived a lot of challenges. We have raised a family, had a career, perhaps experienced one or more marriage. We have survived organized educational institutions and if we are lucky, paid off our creditors. We read books by philosophers, historians, and other scholars. I’m reminded of a favorite poem of mine by Carl Sandberg:

I’ve never had dinner with Abe Lincoln,

I’ve never heard the mocking bird spilling it’s heart in the morning in Kentucky.

I never had coffee with big Jim Hill

I never wore a white chimborazo

It's a high, white Mexican hat I hear

But I’ve been around.

There’s the line…”But I’ve been around”

How many different experiences there are in a life time. And they are all unique in one way or another. Our children’s experiences will never be exactly like ours. What worked for us may work for them and then again…it might not.

All the things we learned from books, parents and teachers may certainly help us but there is always the possibility that new situations call for new thinking and action. I know that in the area of politics my youth found me condemning the older generations and firmly believing that my generation would not make such a mess of things. When Kennedy said the torch had been passed I really believed him. I knew that politically the world was about to get a lot better. I’m not sure it has.

One thing about age though, it gives us a bit of a perspective from which to gage the political progress in the world. I know that in 1960 the nuclear threat seemed much greater than today. So that is progress. Racial integration was yet to be commonly accepted as correct and necessary. It is hard to believe we would ever go backwards concerning civil rights. Women’s rights were vastly different from today. No woman would want to live under the sexist conditions of 50 years ago, And the environment was yet to be considered as a problem. Even the words, environment and ecology were rarely used. Both of these issues have come a long way. We have made some gains. Of course none of these issues have been resolved but they have been improved upon. I could tell my daughter that though progress is slow it does happen. I suppose I have imparted that bit of “wisdom” to her over the years. At least I hope so.

I can vividly recall certain elections when I thought the end of the world was guaranteed if certainly people were elected to office. Those people were elected – way too often – but the world didn’t end. It just kept grinding along. Changes were made; some bad and some good. But somehow we managed.

When everything politically goes wrong I often find myself thinking about the horrors of World War Two, genocide and massive human rights abuses. Amnesty International tells the story of a woman who was thrown in prison in Italy. She was moved from cell to cell and prison to prison over a period of months. She was kept in isolation and never knew where she was or if anyone knew she was still alive. All seemed hopeless. Then on Christmas Eve through the slot in the door a small matchbox was dropped. She opened it and found the word, “Courage” scrawled on a small piece of paper. That note, that word, that contact gave her hope. She survived knowing that somewhere, someone cared.

That’s the word I need to remember around election time. It’s not easy but it is necessary. Perhaps when the next election rolls around and my daughter calls with doubts about our political process I will be better prepared and my response will be “courage”.



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