Earlier this week I assisted a friend in attending a medical appointment. She is such a dear. She kept apologizing for the long wait to be seen. Truly I didn’t think it was long at all so I recounted a story to her about accompanying a man in South Africa to the doctor (because I was the only one in his rural community who had a car). Days earlier the man had been shot in his lower leg and although he’d been seen in the local clinic at the time, the wound had now become infected and he could barely walk. Three of us took him to the closest city clinic and we waited over 2 days for him to be seen. Yes, you read that correctly, the whole trek was the best part of 3 days.
The clinic was in a busy city government hospital. There were only lines of crude wooden benches in the large dark windowless waiting room. You simply took a seat and slid along row after row until it was your turn to be seen. When we arrived there was no room left for anyone to sit, however folks made room for him when they saw his leg all bandaged up. We all stood until space opened up for one of us to sit with him while the other two stayed with the car. I remember how secluded this area of the hospital seemed because the only person you saw was the nurse who came out to call “next” as the line would shift and move slightly each time.
When I concluded my short tale, my friend commented how yes, indeed everything is relative. Suddenly this waiting period in this gorgeous new building didn’t seem so long after all. With an abundance of attendants, light streamed in through the towering windows, such a contrast to the day, or days, I had just described to her.
This memory flooded my mind once again reminding me of how very much we have on this side of the world. I am so so grateful for such experiences but I realize that without them as a baseline of sorts I never fully comprehended the vast chasm between my life and the lives of millions of others around the world. I read and watch the news but truly I did not begin to understand until I lived it. Until the issue affects me I tend to quickly abandon so many human tragedies. Our frivolous use of water demonstrates that we give little thought to its finite supply all over the world. Raging wild fires are heartbreaking but they are a devastating affair if you reside in the path of one.
Isn’t that the way with so many things. I know it sounds so cliché but it is true that it takes something like this wee story to help clear our vision. Likewise it is with aging. Until you hear the gentle quiet rapping of Father Time at your door, you don’t quite get it.
And, it’s funny that things happen inside out and in reverse, too. As we age we slowly see life differently. We become more entrenched in our opinions, less flexible, possibly not really a good thing, more contemplative, wiser, I hope, and less taken with drama of any kind. You long for simplicity, peace and quiet. You are more selective about how you spend your time recognizing that time itself is a precious and finite personal commodity. In fact I am more acutely aware of this with each passing year.
Conversely, when we are young we were likely more impulsive examining our actions and their consequences much less. We may have had a “buy now, pay later” type attitude. Time was plentiful. In fact we feel like we have all the time in the world when we are young. We can’t see it otherwise. Perhaps the running, rush and commotion of modern life was your adrenalin- go, go, go!
I have often asked the Lord to break my heart for what breaks his…and indeed he has. Yet I have observed that human beings are a peculiar lot. Unless we have an issue in our face or close to home we are not as moved. We can be sensitive and sympathetic but to varying degrees. For example, if I or a loved one has experienced cancer or heart disease, we tend to give more to that particular cause. The same holds true for poverty and lack. As described above, unless we experience something, we may be only momentarily touched by a sad tale, yet soon the thought flies away on the next breeze.
This is also true for aging. We see an older person with mobility issues or dementia and perhaps experience a twinge of “one day that could be me” yet that thought too is soon forgotten. Senior citizenship sneaks up on us slowly so we pay little heed….until suddenly it is upon us and we wonder how in the world we arrived here. It might be the sudden, poignant decline we first witness in our parents, or our own sudden trauma and life as we knew it is changes forever.
But the Lord showed me something very reassuring n comforting a couple of days ago.
“But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Who runs-primarily younger people.
Who walks-we walk more as we get older, as we give up running through life.
So now I read this verse this way.
Anyone who waits on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall soar like an eagle: the young will run and not get tired; the older folks will walk and not faint.
What an incredible promise! The years will pass before you know it. Soon the senior years will be your reality, not a distant fleeting thought. Yet he promises that as you wait on Him, you will gain strength even in your later years enabling you to soar...and when you soar high, oh, what a clear perspective you gain!