Like clockwork, every Monday and Wednesday I go to my local Corner Bakery to grab breakfast — Berry Almond Swiss Oatmeal and a large to-go cup of ice water (it’s a really big serving and lasts me two days – Friday is a free-for-all – I never quite know what I’ll be eating…). And, pretty consistently, I see the same two or three old men, at separate tables, drinking their morning cup of joe.
Today, I overheard the following conversation between two of the regulars as one sat at his usual table and the other was making his way towards his:
Old Guy #1 – Cheerful… “Nice day today, yeah?”
Old Guy #2 – Mumbling… “It’s another day.”
Old Guy #1 – Prodding… “What do you got going on today? Anything?”
Old Guy #2 – Irritated… “I need to get my battery checked out. I often get stuck in traffic and don’t want it to go out on me.”
Old Guy #1 – Disturbed… “Anything else?”
Old Guy #2 – Satisfied… “That seems like a pretty full day to me.”
Now, I’m not one to knock retirement. I hope that, at some point down the line, I can choose whether or not I want to have a full or part-time job, or undertake another entrepreneurial endeavor. I applaud those who have worked their tails off and, in their golden years, can enjoy a cup of joe every morning without worrying about the day’s agenda or some whipper-snapper like me being entertained by their passing conversation.
But, I can’t say that I wasn’t affected by their dialogue. Here were two men, both sharp as tacks and clearly able to benefit others in a meaningful way. I’ve heard each of them talk to patrons during their morning respite and am always impressed by their respective intelligence and the occasional story of something amazing that transpired in their lives. But, here they were, chatting again like disgruntled teenagers, with one of them being content to have the highlight of the day being a trip to the mechanic to get his battery checked out…. and that made me sad… and pissed.
While I don’t know them personally, I feel like I have gotten to know them through my stalker-like activities. And, I have full confidence that both could be incredible teachers, mentors, and contributors to others. Perhaps they leave the Bakery and do exactly that, but I seriously doubt it.
My hope is that they wake up tomorrow and recognize that they still have time to massively impact not only those who share this lifetime with them, but also those of lifetimes to come. Retirement doesn’t have to equate to boredom or complacency — it can be quite the opposite. Myriad organizations are literally begging for volunteers (SCORE is a great one for retirees to consider) and their talents/abilities would be welcomed with open arms.
It’s also in one’s final decades where one’s reason for being often surfaces. Many spend the majority of their existence burying who they inherently are as the obligations and responsibilities of life have dominated their waking hours. But, as the end draws nearer, we often are drawn like Miley Cyrus to twerking and aim to become closer to our true self while trying to answer life’s greatest question – what is our WHAT – and how can we share it with strategic abandon?
I pray that each man has the courage, determination and will to become the person each was meant to be and that one day I walk in and they won’t be there… Not because they’re dead, but because they’ve become very much alive.