The virtues of age…and happy endings


Rushing to get somewhere last week in that stressed state we all recognize as a part of city life, there came a sound from behind me along the sidewalk. Chi-chip, chi-chip, chi-chip. Then there she was: a little schoolgirl, maybe about eight years old, red jacket open to the wind, blue backpack not yet laden down with the kind of responsibility that comes with the higher grades, and so endearing with her two little afro puffs bouncing from side to side as she skipped along, making her way home, heading away from the nearby school. Skipping comes with being happy.

Released from the stress by the sight of her little carefree self, I thanked her, without saying a word, for reminding me of what it means to still be a child. For you know that if you saw someone five times her age chi-chipping along the sidewalk, knees bouncing up, arms swinging wildly in like manner you would wonder at his or her mental state. Jogging yes, but skipping, no.

It’s always a good idea to cover your milestones at the appropriate time; otherwise, the desire to engage in certain age specific activities beyond the cutoff date will raise questions regarding mental or emotional wellbeing. Not only that, but not engaging in certain age appropriate activities could in the end also mean a life not well lived.

On another day, in the subway, where so much of city life reveals itself, the clap-clap-clap coming from the hands of two little girls playing a familiar game reminded me of how strong oral tradition still is. Does anyone who every played a clapping game remember learning it from an adult? No classroom lesson ever passes ‘Miss Mary Mack-Mack-Mack’ from one generation of schoolgirls to the next, from one country to the next. Yet, there they were in the after-school rush hour linking the present with the past, and completely oblivious to any of that.

It is to be hoped that we all had our fair share of hours with Miss Mary Mack and the ‘salt-mustard-vinegar-pepper’ of the skipping rope at full speed. It was fun at recess time in elementary school and it is fun to be reminded. How would it be at this point to think of jumping rope as fun and not just something to do to keep our heart healthy, according to doctor’s orders?

A family member who is now in the university years recently lamented that she doesn’t enjoy getting mail as much as she used to when she was younger. Why? When very young people get mail, it usually means a birthday or Christmas card, or some other such joyous occasion. But past a certain age, the only things that come in the mail are bills to be paid. Or worse, reminders that bills are overdue.

Even so, who would turn back the clock if they could? Few indeed would trade experience for time. It’s enough on a nice fall afternoon to receive a little vicarious happiness from some young one skipping along on her own journey.

A note on how much we value life…

The rescue of the miners in Chile is a feel good story in a sea of bad news and that is why so many the world over stayed connected to it. The hope that these people, caught in a most trying situation while doing their job, would make it out alive and well speaks to how much we humans value life. Looking at their situation, as the rescue wraps up, there are so many lessons to be drawn from this drama. For one, the strong sense of the importance of individuality that plays as a virtue in our current culture would be of absolutely no use in the crisis faced by those men. None of them would have survived without the positive cooperation of all involved. And that goes for everyone working above ground to rescue them as well. For another, the value of family support and love had to be a tremendous motivation to keep hope alive.

Another aspect that this story brings to our attention is that in spite of all the pessimism and uncertainty that is floating around us, we all still want happy endings.

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