The flotsam and jetsam of 2016 are being dragged out to sea by the last ebb tide of the year. It is a strong night tide that has cleared the beach and leveled the sand, leaving it pristine, unmarred and untouched. It awaits the dawn of the next year and fresh footprints on a new stage. In the vast continuum of time, it is just another day. There are a trail of days, behind and before, that defy our reckoning. But we have drawn a line in the sand with our calendar and tomorrow we will mark the start of a new year. It is a time, real and imagined, of new hope and new beginnings. It is a time of resolutions.
I am what they refer to as, of a certain age. Though the definition is vague, it is generally accepted to mean, no longer young.
Guilty as charged.
Being of a certain age carries with it some disadvantages. For men, it means that their hair starts to disappear from locations that are desirable and relocates to regions that are less so. In my twenties I gave no thought to my eyebrows, now they require trimming, let’s not even mention the nose and ears. It also marks the onset of what my father called the furniture disease. This is when your chest starts to settle into your drawers. But being of a certain age also brings some benefits. Most of us are finally comfortable with ourselves. We have come to accept our weaknesses and our few strengths. We realize it’s unlikely to see big swings in our temperament, personality, knowledge or wealth. In the words of the great philosopher, Popeye the sailorman, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”
Being of a certain age, I have to guard against turning into a curmudgeon. I’m starting to see hints of that sneaking into my vocabulary. I try to catch myself before I utter phrases like, “it wasn’t like that when I was (insert age),” or, “that’s not the way it should be done.” I have also become pretty good at sizing up people with just a glance and assigning them to categories of mine own making.
I have buckets ready to place people in for broad categories … rich, poor, old, young, black, white, straight, gay, Republican, Democrat, I’ve got buckets for everyone. It’s not just big categories though, I’ve perfected it so that I have a bucket ready for you for the most trivial of things. You say you only listen to top 40 country music?, I’ve got a bucket for that. You don’t like grilled asparagus, boom, into the bucket. God forbid you are a rich, young, black, gay Democrat who only listens to top 40 country music and doesn’t like grilled asparagus!
I can do better … this is my one and only New Year’s resolution.
At first glance, before I decide anything else about a person, I want to assign them to the largest bucket of all. A category so large and encompassing that everyone who has ever lived has been a part this group. This is an organization from which there is no escape. A collection of saints and sinners, which is to say, all of us.
The young black man strutting down the street. The one with dreadlocks and his pants buckled below his butt. Yeah, I’m putting him in this bucket. At first glance I want to see him as a child of God.
The twenty something hipster brewing my coffee, with his BMI measured in single digits. Into the bucket you go, I see a child of God.
The woman in front of me in the checkout line, talking loudly on her cell phone and covered in ill-advised tattoos, as much a child of God as anyone ever born.
That guy that just cut me off in traffic, yes, he’s a child of God (but he’s still a jerk).
Everywhere I look, before I make snap judgments about people based on some superficial criteria of my own construct, I want to see them first as children of God. I’m pretty sure when God looks down, he doesn’t see any of my buckets. I’m pretty sure he only sees his children.
The receding tide has left a few pools on the spotless beach. The offshore breeze ruffles the surface of the tide pools, obscuring anything below and distorting any reflections on the top. Then the air stills, suddenly the surface of the little pool become mirror-like and an image emerges, the reflection of a man. He is of a certain age. His hair is thinning and his eyebrows could use a trim. He too is a child of God. This is a tough one for me, because I know this guy all too well. I am very familiar with all his shortcomings, his thoughts, his sins. I often have a tougher time viewing him as one of God’s beloved children than I do total strangers.
If you run into him during the course of the day, do your best to see him first as a child of God. He remains very much a work in progress.