Time Marches On


Chalk one up for me.  Unknowingly, I gained credibility by simply showing up for a Saturday morning workday at church to engage in yard work.  The year was 1979.  Did I mention that I liked the sensation of watching freshly mowed grass shoot outside the lawn mower or weeds disappearing as they came in contact with a weed-eater?  I was also not a stranger to wearing work gloves and investing sweat equity in any project.  I say all that to affirm that first impressions are lasting impressions.

 I stopped by on my way home from work yesterday for a brief visit with friends.  In uncharacteristic fashion, I didn’t call first.  After all, I was simply stopping by to drop something off as a “thank you” to the guy for some work he had done. It was my intent to say “hi” and “bye” in almost the same sentence.  Consequently, I didn’t need to call first.  Besides that, the precedent has been in place for years.  With these folks the welcome mat is always out.  No advance notice is needed.

How long has it been since I’ve gone anywhere without an invitation or a phone call to ask if the timing was right for a visit? What was once an accepted practice of neighbors stopping by to visit with neighbors has shifted over the years.  I don’t remember the last time our doorbell rang without my anticipating the sound.

Back in the day before everyone carried a cell phone, unannounced visits were commonplace.  Technology has altered the status quo of simply showing up at someone’s door without advance notice.  Yet, how awkward is it to call in advance to ask folks if you can visit?  As a rule of thumb, folks don’t often do that.  Consequently, the patterns of accessibility and shared time have dwindled because of the perceived notion that unannounced visits in today’s culture are taboo.

When people ask me what I most enjoy in my spare time, I always answer sitting on the sun-porch and visiting with friends.  Unfortunately in today’s social economy, that takes some preparation on my part because folks seldom show up unannounced.
They wait for an invitation.  If I could turn back the clock, the impromptu practice of people visiting unannounced would be one of things I’d gladly embrace and add back to our lifestyle.

As I pulled into the garage last night a few minutes before 10:00 p.m., I had the thought that my brief visit with friends after work yesterday had evolved into an extended stay. In addition, the impromptu dinner invitation they provided after I arrived was one I couldn’t pass up.  Actually, I tried to decline, but my friends were insistent.  Okay, “So twist my arm, I’ll stay”.  It was a fun filled evening.

So, how many years have I known these friends?  You do the math.  Can it really have been thirty-seven years?  We’ve shared much over the years.  In looking back, its all been good.  Sure, coupled with the joy, there have also been times of incredible sadness.  As both pastor and friend, I’ve had the honored privilege of coming alongside the man’s family at the death of his brother, his dad, his grandfather, four uncles and three aunts. In addition, the two pieces of property where our homes have been built were purchased on land belonging to his family.  I’d say our friendship is etched in stone and I’m grateful.

Like I said, “First impressions are lasting impressions”.  The catalyst for our friendship was his belief that I was okay because I showed-up at a Saturday workday at church.  Sure, I looked a little (perhaps “very” is a better term) strange. I had a full beard, hair that covered my ears and an indomitable work ethic.  Not only did I have a real job in addition to my role as the new pastor, I was “one of the guys”.  I enjoyed the privilege of investing sweat equity in the totality of all that needed to be done.

Sadly, the absence of unannounced visits isn’t the only thing that has changed over the course of almost four decades.  While I’m resistive to the notion that my indomitable work ethic isn’t as resolute as it once was, I am also aware on many levels that I’m not a young man any more.  “Sweat equity” doesn’t have the same appeal to me as it once did.  Why?  Is it that I no longer have the prowess and stamina to complete a project? Is it that I don’t have the time to get it done and outsourcing it is easier?

Maybe you’ve got to be my age before those questions surface to the periphery of one’s thought processes.  I recently visited with a friend who is about five years older than me.  He has always had an analytical mind and his wisdom exceeds his years.  He is incredibly bright.  What I discovered in my recent visit is that he is also exceedingly confused.  He has enough awareness of his circumstances that he voluntarily says he is not certain of many things.  Some of the things he is no longer certain of relate to things for which he should be certain.  I found it very bothersome.

I know there have to be advantages to being three days older than dirt, but there are associated challenges as well.  Okay, if you’re my age, you’re wondering about the advantages. How’s this for starters:

  1.  You’re too old to have a mid-life crisis.
  2. If you’re married, you’re going to stay married.  I say this tongue-in-cheek, but do you have any idea what a divorce would do to your retirement income?
  3. You may have forgotten more than you know, but you’re still regarded as an expert because of experience and history.

One of the challenges to being three days older than dirt relates to the importance of first impressions.  What about first impressions for folks you’ve just me?  I may have once gained credibility by simply showing up for a Saturday workday at church to engage in yard work.  What do I do now to grain credibility?  The lure of “sweat equity” isn’t nearly as appealing at my age as it was when I was thirty-two.  I’m not ready for the “out-to-pasture” experience, but I’ve got to find something other than a weed-eater to substantiate that I’ve got something to contribute.

Who know?  At least it’s food for thought and it doesn’t require sweat equity.

All My Best!




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