Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
October 21, 2007



Choose to be around people who can help you get the most out of life


Years ago I laughed my head off at the antics of Tim Conway on television. His best comedic routines were those in which he imitated an old man shuffling along, moving one inch at a time. Now there are days when I realize I am that old man.

When I was young I took pride in my walking speed. I took long strides. Nobody walked at a faster pace. Friends would ask me to slow down. Now younger people walk past me as though I am standing still. At first it was surprising because in my mind I was moving along rather briskly. Then reality set in. I had to embrace the truth. I am slower than I thought.

But life is not over for those of us who are old and slow.  We simply have to be careful about the people we choose to be around. Pessimistic people can make life miserable. Positive people who can see the funny side of life should be our first choice. The best of them are the ones who can laugh with us, not at us, when we take a spill. People who “lecture” us about every mistake can squeeze the joy out of life.

I like people with spunk, people who refuse to give up even when the odds seem against them. Somewhere I read a great story about Johnny Unitas, one of the most famous quarterbacks in NFL history. On his college team Unitas was a second or third string quarterback. In one game when his team got behind, he sent himself into the game to replace the starting quarterback. He did not have the coach’s approval; he just ran on the field and took over. His leadership turned the game around, his team won, and the rest is history. 

         I love the story about the old woman who was looking for a space to park her bright red Mercedes.  Noticing a place up ahead she moved slowly toward it. Before she could get there, a young man in another car darted in front of her to claim the parking place. She rolled down her window as the young man walked away and demanded to know why he had been so rude.

         "Lady," he replied with a smile, "I guess that is what you can do when you are young and quick." As he walked on he heard tires squalling and looked back just in time to see the old lady ram her bright red Mercedes into the rear end of his car. Screaming at the woman as she got out of her car to await the police, the young man demanded an explanation. "Well, Sonny," she said, "That’s what you can do when you are old and rich!"
          That old woman is my kind of woman. She knew she was no longer young and quick but she was also realized she was not dead yet. She knew that older people still have a few options left. One of those options is to have fun until the end, to stay alive as long as you live. And it helps to be around people with plenty of spunk.
         As we grow older we do lose some of our abilities. We suffer hearing loss, our eyesight dims, and our physical strength wanes. But we need not lose our enthusiasm for life itself. One woman said it this way, "I am 85 now. I can hardly hear thunder, and my eyesight is almost gone. But thank God, I still have my driver’s license!"
         That is the spirit we need to the end of life. As long as we can we must refuse to throw in the towel and give up. Once we give up, quality living is over. We may continue to breathe but instead of living we will merely exist. That time may surely come for many of us, but we need to put it off as long as we can. Somehow we must find the spunk to keep going even when our ears, eyes, knees, and backs are failing.
         When I met Stanley Jones he was in his late seventies but he was still hale and hearty. His mind was still sharp; his wit remained keen. Brother Stanley was an immediate inspiration to me. He had spunk. Instantly I knew I wanted to be like him.  He credited his good health and vitality to grace, gumption, and grass. By grass he meant the vitamin supplements he believed in. Gumption is what I call spunk.
         Though I have not embraced Jones’ love of health foods, I still like his plan. It is not a bad formula: grace, gumption, and grass. My plan is a bit simpler: grace and spunk. So if you find yourself in my situation- getting older and slower-you may want to a plan like ours. The "grass" may cost you a few bucks, but the grace and the spunk are free.

          It takes spunk to choose to hang around positive people. But we do have a choice. We can walk away, even if it is at the pace of old Tim Conway, from the people who thrive on bashing us for every miscue. We can decide to spend most of our time with the people who help us get the most out of life.

         Excuse me now. I am headed to the spunk store for a fresh supply. + + +