The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Who's left standing?

Every other Tuesday I spend time with “the guys” at a nearby assisted living facility. Our informal group does what most guys do well at any age: engage in conversation that seems to have little or no importance. Kidding around, huffing and puffing, throwing out faux insults, asking odd or inappropriate personal questions, telling amplified stories for effect. (You guys — and those who love you — know the drill.)

Something else jumps out of these conversations: These guys are still standing. These men — all of them exquisite gentlemen — still exemplify the best of their generation’s characteristics. Perhaps even the best qualities of human behavior. And they get “simplicity” big time, no matter what their physical or mental states.

As we laugh-and-scratch about whatever, I find myself wondering how the experiences of their lives — including deprivation, war-service and the death of beloved spouses — washed or eroded away from these men the dross of unimportant or unworthy character traits. How the fripperies (nonessentials) of their lives got hosed away. How those difficult life experiences cleaned out messy presumptions about “the good life” and left standing what I see and hear every other Tuesday.

There’s little attitudinal dirt left on these men. They live gratefully every day, generous in the small ways that characterize truly humble people. Even though they live in considerably smaller quarters than most of us — with limited choices for activity and life-purpose — they see themselves as richly blessed. Even though the vagaries of their present lives threaten their well-being, these men stand as tall as possible, steadfast pillars of wisdom and witness to God’s goodness. I am blessed to kvetch and kid around with them because they are my teachers: they are teaching me how to grow old and older.


How about you, friend? What about you will be “left standing” when you grow old?


Harold Burnette

Harold Burnette

Posted at 1:01 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/26/2011

All of the above, my friend! And more, I hope!

Note: Harold Burnette edited this post at 1:03 pm on 7/26/2011.

John Wells

John Wells

Posted at 7:48 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/26/2011

I think this should be sent to our President, the Congress, and the Senate.  What's really important?  How much money do we need to live a life that leaves us "standing" on the faith that the God who loves and cares for all will not abandon us?  This article struck me as a wonderful example of how fully life can be lived and how, in the simplicity of their surroundings, these men can show us how to see the blessings of our lives.

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