Karl Douglass: Obligations of getting older

October 12, 2013 

I am getting old. I know because a lot of things I used to love to do don't excite me anymore. These days, dropping my daughter off for a play date is my idea of a well spent Saturday and a night at home with a few friends is my ideal social outing. Looking back, I never expected I would arrive here.

Getting older is not a given. I have attended funerals for several of my high school classmates and even a few college classmates. In some cases, the departed became so because of bad decisions. In others, God simply placed the deceased in the express lane to Heaven. Regardless of the reason, my friends did not have the privilege of getting old. I do. I am thankful.

Sociologists say that most of us will become whiffs of memories to just a handful of people 50 years after we die. They suggest that if you want to beat the odds of being forgotten in 50, you must get elected to office, write a book, invent something, start an organization or become a philanthropist. All of these activities have one thing in common, they impact the lives of others.

So the moral to the story is this: Getting old carries certain responsibilities. Among them is impacting the lives of others.

In particular, as we get older, we should spend increasing amounts of time helping those younger than us enjoy a life at least as good as -- and hopefully better than -- the lives we have lived. I can point to numerous older men and women who have helped me take advantage of opportunities or avoid pitfalls. Their counsel has been invaluable. The question I am now starting to ask myself is who can say the same about me? Who can say that something I did or said helped him or her enjoy a better life?

Though the true answer to those questions will be revealed only over time, I ask myself the question daily. Do you?

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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