What about the old people?

The desert property looks abandoned. Rarely are people seen there, but it is inhabited by history.

Residing there are old motorhomes, broken down cars, a burned out frame of a house, and the long unfinished project of what was once someone's dream. It looked like it was the start of a foundation for a building, maybe a home, maybe a dream shop for off road vehicles. Decades had passed since the first shovelful of dirt was ever turned over, and the project never even got past the foundation stage. Kind of a sad commentary on the path some dreams take.

Staring at one of the RVs in the corner of the property it occurred to me that at one time someone, a family maybe, was really excited to own that vehicle. A brand new motorhome held promises of lots of wonderful times ahead. The history is that sad old relic probably included many happy memories, trips around the county, the state, maybe even the country. The fact that its final resting place is in the desert makes it easy to imagine that there were many years of exciting off road memories tucked away in the broken down carcass.

And the people who were the proud owners of the new vehicle fifty or sixty years ago, where are they?

While some people are racing motorcycles into their 80's, others might be trapped in frail and broken bodies, confined to nursing homes, relying on others to meet their most basic needs.

Somehow it is easy to look at an older person and forget that they were ever once young, vibrant, full of energy, productive and loving life. Somehow we might just think they've always been old. Like the abandoned motorhome, every old person we encounter has a history we most likely have no knowledge of. They are deserving of our respect, kindness and compassion. Certainly they have lived through things we never have, especially if their years on earth vastly exceed our own.

Eighty-nine-year old John Penton (now 98) comes to mind as I ponder the mysteries of age. Seeing this elderly gentleman out for a stroll on a winter day, it would be easy for younger people to dismiss him, even to be impatient with his slower movements. But as the 2014 movie The John Penton Story proves, this man has accomplished motorycling feats that many of us will never even dream of.

The guy-in-the-garage has a special talent for taking old broken down vintage motorcycles and restoring them into new creations. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the same could be done with people?

Yet in a way it can. No, we won't see their bodies become new, and we won't see their formerly alert minds become sharp but we can restore their spirit with a kind word or even a cold soda.

The "walking man" as we call him is always on the move at the assisted living home and if you get in his way the air will turn blue with the words coming out of his mouth. More than once we've been the target of his hateful language. But then the day came when our 8-year-old granddaughter wanted to offer him a cold soda. A little fearful of what the outcome would be, we called out his name as he ducked into his room, most likely to avoid us in the hallway again. But at the sound of our voices, he hesitated just long ehough to give us the courage to say, "Would you like a soda?" And we were were stunned when we saw the briefest of smiles as he held out his hand and received the gift.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

A Facebook friend of ours disagreed with Mr. Emerson. "I went with happy," he wrote "and got no regrets."

I find that a sad commentary on life. Putting personal happiness ahead of making a difference in life or showing compassion to others, in my book, is a good example of a life poorly lived.

In contrast I have found that if you choose honorable, compassionate and the goal to make a difference that you have lived, then you get happy thrown in the mix without even trying.

Before and after pictures of a guy-in-the-garage restoration. A lot of care goes into these projects. The same effort can restore the spirit of a person in need.

Read the entire November 2023 Super Digital Edition online or buy it in print!

November 2023 S&S Off Road Magazine


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