It’s a vital part of “church” to be involved with people beyond Sunday morning. When the outside activities of the Bible study group my wife and I were involved with seemed awfully tame, we started a class that targeted a younger demographic – those 55-65 years old.
One Sunday morning a sweet couple visited our class. When Sue Ellen noted the ages indicated on their visitor card, she called the church office and suggested John and Mary might find the older class more suitable. She was told no, they specifically asked for our class.
We weren’t going to shut the door on anyone, even though they were the age of many of our parents. And what a wonderful addition they were to our class. Ironically, Mary, who had a teaching doctorate with a specialty in English as a Second Language, had recently worked in Colorado for a man who was a young boy in the same church where Sue Ellen and I were members years ago.
When we learned that John and Mary’s ministry careers were primarily among students, we understood why they wanted to be in our class, among people a generation younger. They’d always worked and lived among young people and we were a touch stone to that earlier era. Being around younger people made them feel younger.
They could not physically do everything we did, but if they attended a game night they gave it everything they had.
And goodness, their insights from a life in Christian service at home and abroad enriched us all. When they moved to Tennessee recently to be closer to their son we showered them with a surprise and rousing send-off with class members and friends holding signs and singing hymns.
I’m at the point in life where some of my friends are turning…old. My army buddy Steve turned 70 today. When I rode with him last summer in Omaha he took another spill on his skinny tired road bike. He’d only recently healed up from a previous spill that broke some ribs and bruised him ugly.
At his wife Linda’s insistence, Steve recently purchased a hybrid bike as his main ride. Now, Steve is a guy who hikes, skis, swims in the ocean and likes to ride his road bike long distances. He’s on no medicines and gets synapse collapse in his brain when he sees the number 70 pop up in relation to his age.
This hybrid bike has fatter tires, a smoother ride and more stable (read: forgiving) handling. But, in his mind, it’s like he traded a Mustang convertible for daddy’s Buick.
“I’ve never felt so bad about a purchase in my life,” he said, when I called him to wish him happy birthday. “I felt like it was the first step toward turning in my car keys because the kids don’t think I’m safe to drive anymore.”
After a shared laugh he said, “I felt it was like going to the vet to get fixed.”
Of course, he made sure Linda felt his pain. But 44 years of marriage has coated her sympathy nerve with a layer of Teflon, which is to say she wasn’t hearing it.
He confessed that after an initial “getting acquainted ride” he likes the bike a lot. He even says it just might be nimble enough to use for RAGBRAI next year, in riding across his home state of Iowa.
Between John and Mary and Steve the lesson for me is clear: I need younger friends.