I turn 65 this summer, if not a convenient act certainly symbolic. A life of high drama is running its final lap and the flowers in my garden are a constant reminder all living things have a season.
My work has taken me into the townships of South Africa and behind the walls of maximum-security prisons. I’ve had the privilege of peering deep within the souls of the world’s elite military and challenged corporate giants at their own boardroom tables. Seated at a thousand kitchen tables around the globe I’ve shed tears with intimate friends and lovers wrestling life’s thorny questions to the ground…together.
I am a fortunate man. I found my tribe.
Skin color, national borders, glass skyscrapers and prison walls failed to keep us apart. Our shared humanity unites us and accepting there’s a time stamp on life has provided a sense of urgency. My tribe has little tolerance for self-serving motivations or narcissistic indulgences. We are committed to a belief that the definition of wisdom demands—”For the good of all.” We serve where we can.
No maudlin tale intended, simply honest and blunt, I’ve suffered a few scratches and dents. Multiple rounds of chemo once forced me to pause exhausted on this side of “the final gate” erasing forever the fool notion I might be invincible. I’m thankful for this harsh dose of reality and grateful to walk in my garden healthy and able to stand toe-to-toe with the strongest in my tribe again.
But I’ve little heart left for conflict. I’ve squeezed enough juice from that lemon. Younger men and women must fight the fierce battles; my work is elsewhere. Not because I’m exhausted, broken, or discouraged, but because I’m seen as an elder in my tribe and feel a responsibility to re-pay the honor by leading the way.
I’ve been granted a bonus round and will make the most of it. My flirtation with the “dirt nap” offered a preview of what waits for us all and it seems wise to begin packing a bag. I’m packing compassion, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness and burying harsh judgment, indignation and resentment in the garden. (I’m told the last three make excellent fertilizer for terrorist bombs).
The time stamp is pressing gently on me. I hope to have a couple of decades left to wander the earth, yet my final destination will forever remain clearly in focus. I intend to make my exit naked, carrying a peaceful heart cradled in my arms.
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