Recently, I read about a woman who admits that she always tells her age, and it bugs her friends. But here’s why she does it: A couple of decades ago, she watched a friend die of AIDS in his twenties. Since then, she often thinks of him when she’s asked to give her age. She thinks of the ages he never got to be, and in honor and memory of him, she tries to appreciate every one.
This idea seems appropriate right now as two stories circulate in the media. There is the horror of young people being shot down at a camp in Norway. Then there is the sadness of singer Amy Winehouse’s death. The two events have little in common except that they both resulted in untimely deaths of people whose potential the world will now never know. The young people were mowed down in the name of a twisted ideology full of fear and hate. Winehouse apparently died from an addiction that she couldn’t beat despite so many resources available to her.
In our culture, we are so obsessed with being young and, failing that, looking young, we forget how fortunate we are to be alive and well. Worrying about gray hair probably means we’re not worrying about famine, war, natural disasters, drug addiction, etc. In the scheme of things, it’s a pretty small problem to have.
So the next time you’re asked your age, admit it proudly in honor of those who will never get the chance to worry about wrinkles and saggy skin.