There was an old man standing in front of his old house watching the traffic go by each day on the then busy street. He seemed to always be there when my parents drove by on this heavily trafficked street in our home town in the late 1960s. He stood out and watched the traffic until dusk most days.
To me at the time, as a child, he was just someone standing on the side of the road. I did not understand old people. My daily concerns were that of a young boy going to school, playing after school and doing some household chores.
Thinking about this nearly a half century later, my guess is that this man had the time but not the ability to do other things. Perhaps his health was such that he could not travel in his later years, or perhaps he could not afford to. He may have been widowed. He looked quite old. If he had lived in the old house behind him for many years he had witnessed the town around him grow from being rural to suburban and becoming more built up and developed each year. He would have witnessed the street he lived on changing from a 2 lane road with modest auto traffic to a 4 lane major traffic artery hosting a major shopping center nearby by the late 1960s for the town then really a city (of 100,000 persons) in its own right.
I wonder what he thought of the changes he had seen in his life – the economic, social, and technological changes he had lived through. He was likely a young man in the first decade of the 20th century. I wonder how he viewed his later years and his steadily approaching demise.
I am not sure why I recalled this man recently. Perhaps it is because these past few months I have been living on a very heavily trafficked street and have sometimes watched the cars, buses and trucks go by. As well, most of my life is receding into the past as there are fewer years ahead than behind me now.
If there is a lesson here, perhaps it is that we ought not take our youth and our good health and high energy level for granted. The years seem to pass more quickly as we get older. As well, we need to do the large endeavors while we are young as there is no guarantee that we will have the health and energy and time to complete them when we are old.
One may call to mind here a relevant and insightful saying of Mark Twain’s:
“It is the epitome of life. The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity.”
A sad irony but part of the human condition.
Try to appreciate each day, even the tough ones and do the best you can.
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