There are different types of beauty that are often noticed by individuals but perhaps ignored by the overall culture. There is the vibrant beauty of youth, which is of course noticed by our culture and idolized to the point of actually causing harm. Young men and women with an inner glow and vibrancy that perhaps only those who passed through that phase actually notice and learn to admire without regret or envy that their time for being part of the younger generation is now over; having moved on to another stage of life.
When I was in my late thirties, I started to notice the beauty of those from the generation before mine. Men and women who had gentle smiles, wise and loving eyes, filled with understanding and compassion for those younger than themselves. They seemed to enjoy listening to the young and by their simple presence, allowing those with whom they are with to feel valued and also secure. Many older people have this gift. In fact it is quite common and often ignored by our society; which is a shame.
Humor is one of the strong points in these wise folks, who have had years of joys and sufferings and have come out wounded and broken, but in a way that has allowed grace to shine through. Self knowledge and the ability to look back on one’s life and to see how God was actually present in the worst of times, as well as the best, allows the intuition to surface… that just as they have received God’s love and mercy, so will those who are younger who are just starting out, will also experience as they pass through the heights and depths of life, that same freely given mercy and compassion. The heart expands and the love of others grows because of an ever deepening empathy and compassion for their younger brother and sister they will meet on the way, as well for their children and grand children.
To achieve this state does not happen by accident. No, it takes lots of little choices throughout life, that slowly formed an immature soul into one filled with wisdom and insight about life, even if it is often unstated or perhaps not even known to be there. It shines forth by the fruit in their lives. Small choices, made on a daily basis to be generous with others, patient when not feeling that way, or if given into (impatience), responsibility is taken and forgiveness sought after. Working through grief, battling bitterness in the midst of loss does bear good fruit in latter life, which is often filled with the presences of those with whom they have helped and benefited along the way; often not knowing the good they have accomplished.
Life is about waiting, though many people actually hate to do that. We wait in doctors offices, at airports, in hospitals and in traffic, all these events in some way telling us something about life……about waiting. It is an ever deepening faith that gives waiting its depth, leading to the ability to listen in those long hours of doing nothing, just being, allowing the heart to open, until that day when our waiting is finally over.
To grow old, into childhood, is a great accomplishment. To come to the last years with the knowledge that life is about something important and urgent. That in the end it is about relationship, the relationship, which of course encompasses all other relationships we have; be it family, friends, acquaintances or just people we meet along the way. Learning to love differences, to let go of harsh judgments (which for the most part, when judging, we really, really, absolutely, suck at), which in itself reduces a great deal of suffering and heartache.
God is love, which is what we are called to deepen as we grow in age and hopefully wisdom. We are called to shine on others, to allow the love of God to pour out of our hearts, which as we age, takes on aspects of the Heart of Christ. The good news is that it is never too late to begin this wondrous journey, this expansion of heart, leaving judgment to God, which allows joy to deepen in ways that perhaps when younger we never thought possible.
One flame passed on
has infinite endurance,
just one tiny fire
sharing its light
A heart empathic
is a healing balm
that spreads like yeast
bringing life and healing.
Showing commonality of experience;
to be embraced
and not avoided.
Such is the mercy that love shows,
its light and inner heat