Today I am feeling philosophical, and I want to share one of my fundamental beliefs about aging.
If we are spared, in our forties, we choose. What we choose in our minds does not constitute our choice. Rather, our choice is manifest in our actions. Talk is cheap and wishes are cheaper, but deeds matter. Deeds are who you are, whatever you may wish you were.
In most cases, by our forties, we have figured out how we will get through our years. We may have decided that we will do so in a given job field, or with no job at all, in partnership, as parents, entirely singly, as hermits, or in whatever way, but we are mostly established by that time. At that point we are likely to have something of a surplus of resources, even if very modest, or at least probably do not have so many urgent wants or needs.
Sometime in our forties, we decide whether or not to share. It is a decision whether we will seek to give of our knowledge, our possessions, our time, and whatever else we value. Not all of it, but enough to be remembered. We either decide to share, and live the remainder of our lives sharing, or we decide to hoard.
It is a decision based partly in the choice of courage and confidence over fear and uncertainty. The brave, confident person is not afraid to share. The fearful coward hoards.
The neighbor gal overshoots the cul-de-sac and her bike rolls up into our yard. We either smile and wave to her, or we scream at the poor kid to get off our lawn.
The Girl Scout is selling cookies we don’t want or need. We either stop, discuss, engage, and purchase, or we hasten past without eye contact.
The elderly fellow is clearly lonely and not terribly interesting to talk to, and is a bit tactless. We either be patient and listen for a while, or we treat him like a leper.
It’s Halloween. We either turn on the lights and hand out candy, or we shut them off and refuse to answer the door.
The hotel desk clerk looks harried. We either answer her “have a nice evening, sir” with something bantery like “Thank you; I wish you a peaceful evening free of entitled jerks,” or we just nod and take our keys.
The other guy, who has out-of-state plates, is in the stupidly designed lane the rest of us locals knew to get out of. Now he’s truly stuck. We either let him in, or we close the gap and let someone else perhaps do it, screw you, I got mine, not my problem.
A family friend is down on his luck, and very proud. We either find a way to slip him some money (which we will never again mention), or we figure that’s his problem.
Whether or not we choose to share mainly determines the nature of our memorial service.
If we choose to share, we burden our survivors with a mighty but rather heartwarming burdening; our memorial service becomes a vast pain in the butt. It becomes necessary to rent or obtain an auditorium in which to hold our memorial service. In some cases (and this actually happened to one family friend of ours) it will require two auditorium sessions.
If we turtle up and cannot bear the thought of anyone getting anything he or she did not earn, and yell at the kids to stay off our lawn, the memorial service is easier. It can be held in the men’s can at the SunMart on 27th and US 395 in south Kennewick, WA, and probably without taking over any stalls or disturbing anyone’s deuce deposition. Might even be able to handle it in a single stall.
If so, poetic justice.
But whether or not we choose with our minds, our actions represent our choice.
Share or hoard. Either you have chosen, or you will choose.
And as people choose, so do people’s organizations in their fullness of maturity: companies, churches, social groups.