Age-defying philosophy keeps us ready for opportunities

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

He was 80.

Both feet turned in until his toes met. He walked with two canes but could out-walk most teenagers. He loved life and everybody. And everybody loved Mr. Joe, as he was affectionately called in the small rural town of my father’s first pastorate.

One day he banged on my father’s office door and burst in all at once.

“Have you got a typing book I could borrow?” he asked with a sense of urgency.

“A what?” my father questioned.

“You know, a book you learn how to type from.”

“No,” Dad told him. “But, you can probably get one over at the high school.”

“Would you call over there for me and ask?” he requested.

“Yes,” Dad promised, “but may I ask what you want with a typing book?”

“I want to learn how to type.”

My father sat amazed. He looked at the man closely. The 80-year-old had fingers that reflected all 80 years. But, Dad dialed. Yes, they would loan Mr. Joe a book.

He started to leave.

“Mr. Joe, why do you want to learn to type?” my father asked as tactfully as possible.

“You just never know when you’ll need it,” Mr. Joe quipped as he breezed out the door toward the high school.

Six months later, a small pulp-wood company opened an office in town. They needed someone to answer the phone and do some typing.

Mr. Joe got the job. At 80.

He never stopped growing.

I never cease to be amazed how young some old people are, especially now that the landmark age of 50 is behind me.

I love the golf stories about those who can shoot their age and do so three times a week. Or smile at the holiday tale of my Rock Band guitar-playing aunt, who is 72. Or recall my mother’s dear friend, “Uncle Charlie,” who would remind her every Sunday morning that although he was 90-something, “I still have all my own teeth!”

We love those stories of folks who have grabbed life, pushed back at Mother Nature, and engaged Father Time.

Perhaps aging takes its toll on people in direct proportion to how well they have prepared themselves to keep growing and learning and living.

Mr. Joe’s mindset gives credence to Sir Francis Bacon’s observation that “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”

We often speak of “opportunity knocking at our doors.” However, it is incumbent upon us to create many doors on which opportunity can knock. And that process demands discovering and cultivating innate gifts.

Mr. Joe gave my father, a twenty-something rookie pastor, that basic philosophy on preparedness in mid-1950. Yet, it applies today.

With old industries dying and new ones being born, gearing up for new jobs calls forth intense personal creativity to dream, to grow, and to learn new things.

“You never know when you’ll need it.”

And you never do.

Opportunity comes to those who are prepared for its visit.