Sunday, November 13, 2005

Social Time

Last week my twin brother had a birthday.

I hate it when old people ask, “How old do you think I am?” It’s a trick to make you make them feel better by saying they look like they’re in they're ‘60’s when reallly they’re in their ‘80’s. Now I’m doing it, and it’s depressing.

People of different nationalities have a hard time guessing the age of other people of different ethnicities. I always had a hard time guessing the age of the Kenyan’s I worked. with and they never could guess my age (all us white folk look the same, you know). A couple of weeks ago I was teaching a class in India and they asked me how old I was? I did the senior citizen thing, “How old do you think I am?”

I went to the white board and gave them a range of options: 45-50; 50-55; 55-60; 60-65; 65-70; 70-75. Most of them put me in the 65-70 category, some put me in the above 70-age group? Sigh, no one put me in the under 50-age range.

In some ways the students gave me a compliment. While the West places high value on youth, in many other cultures older people are perceived as having legitimacy. Social time means that you have something to say because you’ve been nicked in life and are still standing. Really old people are revered, as they are seemingly closer to God (more truth to that than they intend, I think).

One of my favorite authors passed away yesterday. At the age of 95, Peter Drucker was still sought after for his youthful and innovative thinking without the foolishness of youth. Age, as the old saying goes, is often more a state of mind. If I can grow old with a mind that is focused on the future and not the past, it really doesn’t matter how many years I rack up.

Happy birthday, Bill. How old are you?