Any good sailor knows that the bottom of the boat is as important as the side we normally observe. On occasion it is required to turn the boat over for inspection and remove calcium deposits and barnacles. Perhaps add a new coat of finish. Until the boat is turned the 180 degrees it remains a mystery what you will find.
This past Saturday I ran in a track meet that was dominated by college and professional track athletes. Mixed in with these racehorses were some of the best masters (30 - 70 years old) track athletes to be found in the US. Since I will turn 55 this August I obviously fit into the latter category.
Over the years of my life I have learned that my soul does not age. Each morning when I look in the mirror I might actually see the physical attributes of a 54 year old man, but if I squint the eyes that belong solely to my mind, I know that my soul on this day can be any age I decide.
What do these three disparate paragraphs have in common?
In my mind they became linked sometime Saturday during the track meet. I felt as though I was figuratively turning the boat over for inspection.
The top side of the boat in my mind is represented by conventional thinking that says young people around us are misguided and not nearly so clear on values as they need to be. How many times do we see phrases similar to this displayed on magazines, or talked about by the elders, and perhaps some of us have even engaged in this conversation ourselves.
So let’s turn this boat over for inspection. I threaded my way through the young athletes on the coliseum floor Saturday noticing the faces that would turn my way and smile. They weren’t smiles of amusement at a 54 year old track athlete. The smiles were simply acknowledging; benign in a way. Many of these athletes had not experienced being mixed with masters athletes. As the meet progressed they became aware that the faces might look older but the skills remain and a percentage of these energetic kids were defeated by men the age of their fathers.
At some point the smiles became wider and the college kids began to talk with us. They spoke respectfully. They said sir. They thanked us for being there and they wished us luck for our season.
When I turn the boat of conventional thinking over the 180 degrees for a real and thorough examination I see young college kids that are respectful and well mannered. Their athletic work ethic was without question. They smiled and they welcomed us into their ‘thing’; and then they cheered us.
I was seeded into a 200 meter heat with college runners that were destined to run the course in 22 seconds. I ran 26 seconds which meant as I rounded the last turn I was at least 3 seconds behind the college kids. Throughout the race college athletes were screaming at the top of their voices encouraging me. They weren’t teasing me or making fun, it was different than that. They sincerely acknowledged my effort to chase these marvelously trained young cheetahs down the track.
These kids were quality humans ready to pass down the cultural values that make us all better people. Turning the boat over is sometimes necessary in our lives. The vision of how sound we are sailing can be made clearer when we look more carefully.
I watched these kids run with abandon and remarkable skill, flying around the corners and shooting up the straightaways with amazing strength and commitment. In doing this they blessed my ageless soul with a very valuable gift. It refreshed my vision. Do you remember the vision I discussed earlier? The ability to see your soul as whatever age you wish? These athletes were offering me the visual reminder of how to run and think young. They were offering cold refreshing water to a thirsty man. They were re-teaching me, and I plan to honor the lesson.
In this fashion they became the teacher of the elder. The boat had been turned and cleaned.
I thank them.