Gratitude: One Key to Graceful Aging

By Richard Howard of Independence, Missouri, USA

You received without payment; give without payment.  Matthew 10:8

A friend sent me a vertical string of five photos, each showing three dogs sitting together.

In the first, two tiny wolfhound puppies lean against a large cocker spaniel in the middle. Each successive picture shows the pups growing into large, powerful dogs, finally towering over the aging spaniel.

I have captioned this photo group, “Aging Gracefully.” These images are graphic reminders of how, when we are vibrant and young and in prominence among our peers, we stand tall. We welcome newcomers into our congregational life, our work, and play.

The months fade into years. Gradually the new leaders find their pace, lending new strength to each mission focus.

They grow taller, stronger, and more responsible. The original spiritual mentors gradually settle into comfortable scenes. They make less noise, offer fewer suggestions, take more naps, and eat slower. They defer to their faith in God and emerging powers of the young.

A temporary sense of loss, bordering on resentment, invades the consciousness of those who just a few years ago had wielded power with poise and had been spiritual leaders.

But then something almost magical happens. As the “old dogs” recede from prominence into the quiet of gratitude, life takes on a splendid hue. There is more time to remember, reflect, breathe deeper, slowly soak up the sunshine, and find comfort in the strengths learned from their spiritual mentors of earlier years.

On the wings of one of those deep breaths comes a voice of encouragement and gratitude: “Life is good. We’re surrounded by those whose vision goes beyond our own—surpassing what we thought we knew, growing closer to God and enabling us to give more than we receive. Hallelujah!”

Prayer for Peace:

God of the wise, God of the innocent, we take our turns in life gracefully. May we know when to lead, when to follow, when to give and receive, when to bless and be blessed.

Spiritual Practice:

Ask for God’s healing and guidance as you enter this time of prayerful presence. Imagine you are floating in a beautiful sea of light. The golden light of this sea buoys you, so you float effortlessly. Waves of light carry and wash over you, bringing wholeness and peace. Rest in the sea of God’s love.

Peace Covenant:

God, I will try to be a gracious mentor, and in turn, be gracious to my mentor.

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