The first day of university our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.
She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”
I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” And she gave me a giant squeeze.
“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.
She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids.”
“No seriously”, I asked. I was curious about what may have motivated her to take on this challenge at her age.
“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.
After that class, we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milk-shake. We became instant friends. Everyday for the next three months we would leave the class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this ‘time-machine’ as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.
Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.
At the end of the semester, we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.
Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m so sorry for being jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.”
As we laughed, she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we stop playing because we stop playing…. The only secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success –
You have to laugh and find humour everyday.
You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.
We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it!
There’s a huge difference between growing older and growing up.
If you’re nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you’ll turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and I stay in bed for a year and never do anything, I will turn eighty-eight.
Anybody can grow older! That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.
The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets…”
She concluded her speech by singing ‘The Rose’. She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year’s end, Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.
One week after graduation, Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by examples that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.
It doesn’t need any explanation. Every time I see old people working and every time I see ‘roses’, I’m reminded of this story. It encourages me to achieve what I want to achieve. We are promised a safe landing but not a calm passage. We may make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give. So let us not be afraid of doing what we want to do and make a life by giving and setting up our own selves as an example to the world!