By Barb Arland-Fye
Julie Erickson posed this question to long-term residents of the Kahl Home in Davenport, where she works as social service coordinator: “What advice would you give to your 30-year-old self?”
Sister Lois Baniewicz, director of Mission Integration at the Kahl Home, thought our readers might appreciate the responses, some of them thoughtful, others humorous and still others a bit on the gruff side. The insights tap into what Pope Francis describes as the “reservoir of wisdom” of our elders. “The elderly,” he said, are entrusted with a great responsibility: to transmit their life experience, their family history, the history of a community, of a people” (“Sharing the Wisdom of Time”).
I invite you to reflect on these responses from the Kahl Home residents and to offer a prayer in gratitude for the gifts that our elders, frailties included, continue to bring to the table of life:
• Help when you can, life is a gift from God.
• Smile more.
• Take consideration of other people’s feelings.
• I wish I could do it all over again… enjoy your time!
• Always have dessert when you have company.
• Take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.
• Respect, enjoy and be kind to your parents.
• Laugh… It’s good for the body.
• Mind your business… too many nosey people in this world.
• You think you’re indestructible… you’re not.
• Be happy at every age.
• Take advantage of what life offers because life is short.
• Always tell the truth.
• If you make a mistake, always apologize.
• Keep on trucking; don’t give up!
• Live for the Lord.
• I’d slow down and not work so hard.
• If you are married, you should never go to bed mad at your spouse.
• Exercise daily to stay healthy.
• Make sure you do one good deed every day.
• Always say I love you; you never know when it will be the last time you say it.
• Do more for your mother; visit her often.
• Live your life to the fullest and stay out of trouble.
• Don’t give up; life is full of good things.
• Your mother is always right; she knows what she is talking about.
• I’d take more trips with my family.
• If you like your job, stick with it. If you don’t, leave.
• Live every day for what it’s worth, you might not be here tomorrow.
• Don’t run away from your problems.
• Don’t be so strict with your children.
• Relax when you can.
How many of us see our own lives reflected in these responses? Each shares a thread from someone’s sacred story of life. As a lover of stories, I try to imagine the lived experiences of each of the elders who shared the advice they would give to their 30-year-old selves. Are they at peace with the decisions they made along the journey and that contribute to the advice they give today, decades later?
What advice would I give to my 30-year-old self? Would that advice be different from the advice I would give to myself today? I’m still contemplating those answers, but among the responses that call out to me: take consideration of other people’s feelings, take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself, live for the Lord, and laugh, it’s good for the body.
Pope Francis’ advice in “Sharing the Wisdom of Time” also resonates with me. It speaks to passing the baton in the road race of life. “To walk toward the future, the past is needed; deep roots are needed to help live the present and its challenges. Memory is needed, courage is needed, a healthy vision of the future is needed.”
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)