As a couple, Renata and I have a bad habit. (C’mon people! I’m a priest for Christ’s sake! Really.) Anyway, our bad habit – the one I’m thinking about – is that we always show up as the first guests to arrive at parties. I suppose this flows out of my own habits in ministry: in my view, showing up consistently late for appointments says to the other person: “my time is more important than yours”, which is something I cannot reconcile with an attitude of service. But when it comes to parties, the social rules are different and lately we’ve become a bit annoyed by our own punctuality.
Last Friday we went to a ceilidh, an evening of Scottish country dancing, sponsored by the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam. Sure enough, we were the first ones in the hall and spent 30 minutes at a table for four sipping drinks on our own before a few others started meandering in. An full hour after our arrival the music and dancing got going.
As the place filled up we noticed that it was a good mix of younger and older people, mostly younger, wearing all manner of attire. Jeans predominated (whew!), but there were a couple of guys in those Scottish skirty thingy’s, and even one man in a tux. We knew no-one except the hosts and I wondered who would pluck up the courage to take the two empty seats at our table. They were being completely ignored by the younger crowd, and in the end it was two ladies who were of the older category who joined us; certainly older than Renata and me.
“So,” I said to Renata later, “we are now ‘old’ in the eyes of the young.” I guess my grey hair has finally pushed us over the line, as far as the young are concerned. Well, as far as I’m concerned too, I suppose. I never pause anymore when I see vacancy ads for “church youth worker”. I never related all too well with teenagers even when I was one, and the gap is slowly widening. On the other hand, to the octogenarians I visit every week I’m still quite young – almost too young for some of them to relate to.
The beer I was enjoying on Tuesday while watching the inauguration ceremony is made by a Belgian abbey that has been brewing it since 1240. I figure if you can stay in business that long – give or take a few disruptive wars – you must know what you are doing! But “old” is relative, isn’t it? A friend treated me to a different Belgian abbey beer this afternoon and those Benedictines have been brewing since 8 years after the Battle of Hastings. When I first arrived in Amsterdam I used to marvel at the buildings from the 15- and 16-hundreds. (The oldest buildings in Seattle, where I resided previously, date from around 1890.) My friend Harry, who lives in Jerusalem, used to grin at my enthusiasm for “old” Amsterdam. But now I can top his “old” Jerusalem: a few years ago we visited the temple of Ggantija on Gozo that, at 5600 years, is the oldest building in the world, even older than Stonehenge or the pyramids of Egypt.
I don’t quite fully go along with “you’re only as old as you feel”, but I understand the sentiment. I’ve met some pretty jaded and “old” 30-somethings, and I know a number of “young” 80-somethings who thrill me with the spring in their step and their inquisitive minds.
I want to be like that: for as long as I bear this mortal coil I want to be known as someone who was young beyond his years.