I recently read that what we all yearn for is a world in which all -isms are -wasisms. I like that. Sister Joan's chapter today is on one of those -isms..."ageism."
There was a time in my life when I talked a lot about ageism. It was in my 30's. In my profession I felt that I was dismissed because of my age. I saw peers in other professions receiving promotions and being granted roles of greater and greater responsibility while those of us in our 30's in ministry were constantly being told that we would have to put in our time before being seriously considered for more "senior" roles. Of course, it probably didn't help that when I was 35 I looked like I was 22. (I know, I know...you can't believe that I am actually 61, You're so kind!). I remember on one occasion being tapped to speak at a national gathering of pastors from my denomination (American Baptist Churches, USA) when I was in my late 40's and being introduced to the gathering as one of our "rising, young stars."
Ageism comes in many forms and cuts across all classes and cultures and ethnicities. Although, it seems that as a culture, we in the USA (while not characteristic of American Baptists) are particularly obsessed with all things youthful.
I had lunch yesterday and a very vigorous conversation about important things with one of our 96 year old parishioners. A few weeks back I presided over the Memorial Service for Roland Calhoun (93) who lived an incredibly active and productive life for 35+ years AFTER he "retired"--which, of course, were preceded by at least that many years of professional flourishing. Every Sunday, I interact with men and women in their 70's, 80's, and 90's who are fully engaged and engaging...who have (among many other things) lived with incredible grace through losses of such depth and consequence I can only stand back in awe. What a privilege we have to be surrounded by such icons of aging. It reminds me of how much this young buck has still to learn!
I have always found it interesting that when it comes to the New Testament (in contrast to the many ancients in the Old Testament), everyone is young. Jesus dies when he is in his early 30's. All his disciples are similarly young. Tradition says that only the Apostle John lives into old age--the rest die relatively young as martyrs. There are a few aged characters who show up. Anna and Simeon are among my favorites. Take a minute to look up their stories: Luke 2: 25-38.
Whether young or old, let us live in such a way that ageism becomes a wasism.
P.S...my next post will not be until Monday...the 40 days of Lent (Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday) do not include Sundays.