The Given: As I approached my Providence property last week, I saw a familiar site. Our neighbor, Donald, was working in the front of his house. This time, he was shoveling snow, clearing the foot dumped on Southern New England Thursday. A few months back, he was cutting full Cedar Trees, Rhododendrons, Mountain Laurel, and Boxwoods; landscaping to make his home more open to prospective buyers.
The Doubt: Donald will be 98 in February. I try to visit him every week, to get a dose of his positive human potential. This week, he was baking chocolate chip cookies. Every time I visit, his daily paper is ruffled. He rifles through the information and reflects on the good and bad in the world. Donald is a positive deviant. He bucks the negative trends and maladies facing this nation’s aging population. Average male life expectancy in the United States 75.2 years. He maintains his own home and lives independently. He’s in excellent physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social health. He is a positive contributor to society. Although recently retired from his head usher post at his church, he still maintains his proud role on its social committee. Up to a few years ago, he walked weekly to downtown Providence, over a four mile round trip including a huge hill, to manage his business.
The Trials: A Range Rover, driven by a man preoccupied on his cell phone, hit Donald as he crossed Wayland Square’s crosswalk when Donald was 93. The impact cracked Donald’s skull and sent him to the hospital. No one had much hope for his future, except for Donald. It might be wonderful to blueprint Donald, to be able to isolate and replicate for others the traits enabling Donald to thrive towards the century mark. Following please find a few of these transferable traits.
· He volunteers at organizations and causes beyond his immediately family.
· He uses his unique skills and talents.
· He makes a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
· He keeps himself in good shape. With great enthusiasm he visits his doctors to monitor and correct problems. He recently demonstrated exercises to maintain good posture.
· He maintains strong and healthy relationships with family and friends. He has dinner with his “kids”, his daughter and son in law who are in their seventies, twice a week.
· He travels and maintains contact with his family and roots.
· He constantly works to improve his home.
· He stays active.
· He writes.
· He manages his finances.
· He eats well.
Transcendence: Many people copy these behaviors, yet fail to live long and productive lives. Donald is blessed with great origins and genes. He derives from a community in Nova Scotia whose inhabitants live up to 25% longer than the general population. His siblings lived productive lives well into their nineties. What distinguishes Donald, in my opinion, is his perspective. He greets every experience with a gracious smile. He maintains a very positive and giving demeanor. He sees the joy and goodness in actions. He jumps to positive conclusions, but he’s not gullible. He’s graced with calm and happy hope, bolstered by his traditional faith. Perhaps Donald’s capacity to love others lifts himself.
Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and exceptional 2008!