Rite of Passage: 59 and counting
Last week, I celebrated my 59th birthday. Of course no one said, “Happy 59th.” Instead, everyone reminded me that a year from now I will be 60. Actually, most people didn’t say “Sixty.” I guess when you get this old, people think they have to sound out each number for you. So what I heard over and over on my birthday was people reminding me that next year I would hit the big “Six-Ohhhh.” This sounded a lot like what people told me on my 29th, 39th and 49th birthdays. But I guess 6-0 is better than No-0s.
I don’t know when it started, but for some reason, I have started comparing everything to my age. Last week, I went to the lumberyard to buy some caulking to use around my windows. The store clerk showed me an array of products that would work. Some were super fast-drying; some were elastic and never dried out; and then there was the plethora of colors: white, brilliant white, off-white, sorta white, used to be white. . . I remember the day when you didn’t have to study these things. You just went into the store, asked for caulk and the sales clerk handed you a tube.
Next, the salesman explained that I could buy caulk with different guarantees: 15, 20 or 30 years. Give me a pencil and paper and I can ’rithmetic all day long, but I’ve never done well at mental math. If I am 59 years old and got the 15-year guarantee, it would be good until I am . . . add the nine to the five, carry the one . . . this caulk would be under warranty until I was 74! I had an easier time figuring the numbers for the 20-year caulk. It would last until I was 79, and the 30-year would be good until I turned 89.
With all this is going on in my head, I did another quick calculation and added the years of warranty to the current year. The first would be good until 2025, the second until 2030 and the final one would last until 2040. I asked the clerk if he had anything that was guaranteed for less than 15 years. After all, next year I will hit the big 6-0.
Did you know what I did for my 59th birthday? I ministered to the least of these. For 23 years, my good friend Tom Branch and I have served with a host of others as chaplains for the Tulsa State Fair. I took my birthday cake to share with my carnie friends. I shared it with Leena from Haiti, the world’s shortest lady; and with Frank, who runs the largest portable roller coaster in the United States. I shared it with “D” from Michigan who travels with the souvenir booth. She was hooked on meth for years until Jesus came into her life. I found out she shares my birthday, so we celebrated together.
I also shared some cake with a lady from Kansas who was afraid she had breast cancer. I finished my birthday celebration by sharing cake with Billy Sims, the 1978 Heisman recipient. (Friend me on Facebook at “Walker Dean Moore,” and you can see pictures of my friends and me celebrating.)
With every person and every piece of cake, something happened. I got younger and younger until by the end of the day I felt like a teenager again. I asked one of the carnies, “When was the last time you went to a birthday party?” He thought for a while and said he couldn’t remember.
I hope I never get too old to celebrate. Whether that means celebrating someone else’s good fortune, celebrating another day on this Earth or celebrating another year of being Jesus to other people, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
I also hope I never lose the passion for giving my life away. As I went from booth to booth and ride to ride celebrating with my friends, I wanted them to know I chose to spend part of my special day with them. I wanted them to know that they matter to God. And I share all this with my Messenger readers because you matter to me, too.
That night, I went home and sat in the La-Z-boy recliner I received on my birthday in 2004 (I know some of you are already doing the math). Yes, my feet felt sore from walking hours upon hours, and I had a few other aches and pains. But serving and celebrating with my friends made my birthday more than happy. God used the least of these to give me . . . joy.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)