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Day 35 of Lent: Life in the truck lane

March 21, 2013

Verse for reflection: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. Proverbs 9:10-11

A number of retired people used to volunteer in our office basement to assemble by hand the tens of thousands of colorful desk calendars Mennonite Media sold every year for churches to distribute in their communities.

One volunteer was going slowly up the stairs. I was coming up the stairs behind him. He paused with his hand on the rail to let me pass and quipped, “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m in the truck lane these days.”

He was God’s special messenger to me that day, making me think about my life and how I was living it. His smile seemed to say he was enjoying life in the truck lane, but I know that is not the case with all retirees.

When I first shared this story (written for my newspaper column, then included in my Why Didn’t I Just Raise Radishes book, 1994) retirement stretched in the distant future. I was in the midst of raising three daughters.


The name for that book, in case you’ve wondered and don’t know, comes from a Sesame Street book where Cookie Monster frustrates another character so severely that at one point the character just exclaims, “Oh why didn’t I just raise radishes!”


These days my siblings, in-laws and friends are certainly talking about retiring, and some have already moved over to that lane. I frankly have very mixed feelings about it, and part of my mixed feelings come from our culture’s emphasis on youth and staying young. Think about it: if we grew up envying those able to enjoy life from a “slower” lane, moving to retired status wouldn’t be so difficult. If we weren’t so wrapped up in our jobs as part of our identity, than maybe getting to the stage of moving on from paid employment wouldn’t be so difficult.

Instead of the volunteer apologizing for slowing me down on the stairway, I should have been apologizing to him for rushing by him, lost in my own busyness.

Not all retirees live at a slower pace, for sure. Dene Peterson, founder of a co-housing community in Abingdon, Va., calls it the production model of aging: “We think, ‘I’ll never get old; I can keep doing everything I’ve always done.’ It’s not a model for old age, it’s a model to stay middle-aged the rest of your life!” She says that what happens with that model is that you stay healthy, which is good, but you’re not ready for the dysfunction when it occurs. (From MennoMedia’s Embracing Aging documentary.)


(Although retired from farming and partially disabled, my Dad always found a way to get things done.)

Certainly there are financial worries, and it is good to have good help preparing for the financial end. They are worries about physical and mental limitations. A simple thing like not being able to drive at night curtails many activities and meaningful involvements.

I suppose part of the human condition is always envying others. As I rush to work, part of me wishes very much to be in the truck lane of retirement. Another part of me knows that when I’m seventy-five, I’ll look wistfully at people hurrying to work or harried mothers shopping with their little “radishes” and wish I could go back in time.

As the Proverb implies, there is no virtue in just adding years to your life; add life to your years.

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Action: This 35th day of Lent, focus on enjoying your life in the present. Jesus says tomorrow’s worries will take care of themselves. Or, if you’re really not enjoying your life, look at ways you can make even small changes so that you can.


From → Faith, Family Life

One Comment
  1. Pert Shetler permalink

    Love Dad’s picture…makes me so grateful for my farm roots and his determination to keep going in the midst of disabilities. Living the now! Pretty hard at times.

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