Wednesday, September 7, 2011

on being 60, or 24

Steve turned 60 on Monday. The day was cool and blustery, appropriate for September... in Canada. I paid attention to the day and tried to notice and capture moments with potential joy or depth. I think 60 is a bit of a bridge to cross for Steve. One of those markers in your life that you don't expect to get to. Like being under a tombstone. I always look across graveyards I pass and think to myself, "None of these people actually thought they would be there." And I don't either.

A family I am close to moved back to Lagos last spring. I miss the family and their five beautiful children. We stay in touch. The 13 year old daughter sent me an invitation to connect with her on a social networking site.I clicked the link and there was her profile. Like a flashing yellow light I saw a number under her name. Age: 24.

The internet is a dangerous place and our children are so perpetually naive. The ones who think themselves worldly and risk the most are really the most naive. I watched this dear girl chaff at restrictions and family identity the last year they were here. I knew she didn't want to leave America. To take a teen who has lived 6 formative years in America back to Africa is no small thing.

I read her profile and wanted to grab her shoulders and shake her. Gives all new meaning to the 'shaken babe' problem. There is nothing good that can come into her life from this. Not only that, she is completely missing the point of being 13. Her only chance to be 13 is now. She is part girl, part woman, and everything is stirred up. Life has 13 year old work and play and innocence that is hanging by a thread. God knows 24 will come and with it the burden of life.

So, like Steve at 60 and my friend at 13 we all struggle to discover and be what we are. The struggle can rob us of life - stealing the beauty of today and pitting us against our own biology and biography. We end up fighting ourselves all our days, instead of sinking into the beauty of our unique essence.

I felt like writing my little friend's mom and warning her. Instead, I wrote directly to the girl and told her I had seen what she did and asked her to change her profile. If she doesn't I will write her mom. The world is a dangerous place and evil is waiting to pounce. As an older woman I must stand in defense of the little ones. My effort won't be enough to change her life, I know. There is a whole hurricane of life happening inside this girl, and she will write her own story. But I will own the little piece I have access to.

Steve, though, is on his own figuring out 60. GRIN


Jason said...


Thank you for sharing these tremendous words. As a minister to a number of these students, I am touched and moved.


Soccermo said...

Tell Big Steve that 80 is the new 40 so 60 makes him a mere babe. Sigh. Aging really does stink.

Your comments re the young girl strike a chord with me as I am parenting a woman child, too. I need to remember that I cannot fix her. I can only lead her continuously to truth and grace and pray she drinks of it.

Anonymous said...

Working at the edge of Child Welfare all these years, lets see how we think. If she's 13 on her profile, the pedophiles will be out in full force. If she's 24, the grungy old and young men (and women) will be on her like ugly on a duck....
How about she leaves off her age?
I'm jaded......
((Poor Steve. Given the alternative, 60 isn't bad.))

David Lyell said...

What a beautiful post, forwarded this on to some friends.

" We end up fighting ourselves all our days, instead of sinking into the beauty of our unique essence."

That is the truth.

Thank you.