Keeping the spark

When I was a child I remember bursting into tears when thinking of my parents growing old. I loved them so much, and just the thought that one day they could lose some hair and get a few wrinkles was so hard! Thinking about it now, something in me was dreading the aging process. I felt strongly that everything beautiful should never end or lose its spark.

As time went on, that particular fear slowly disappeared. I can’t honestly say I’m excited about growing physically old, but besides feeling stronger now than when I was in my twenties, due to being more physically active and keeping a better diet, I’m starting to realize that what I actually dread the most is becoming old inside: losing my enthusiasm, my ideals, and the desire to continue to learn and move forward. For this reason, I’m glad every time I have a chance to stretch and in some way start anew and remain young inside. I’m a hopeless idealist, that’s all.

A few years ago, I attended a school reunion and saw many of my friends that I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. When I was young I was a very good student and a leader in political and social causes. Then I decided to dedicate my life to missionary and humanitarian causes and spent the next 38 years doing that, often in very difficult circumstances, never accumulating much for myself in terms of material goods. In contrast, quite a few of my friends are now accomplished professionals—doctors, lawyers, and businessmen.

At one point, someone dared to ask me the hot question: “But … do you have any regrets? You were such a brilliant student. We all admired you and thought you would become a great doctor or writer.”

I simply answered that, no, I didn’t have any of that sort of regrets. I knew that I’d found and followed God’s calling in my life, and that is the highest form of reward. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and almost unanimously exclaimed: “We are so glad to hear that and to know that you are still fighting for the ideals you gave up so much for! You continue being a role model for us.”

I realized then that I wasn’t the only one who hates quitting. It’s not a matter of always appearing strong and never making mistakes. That is impossible anyway, and there are many falls along the way, and even times when one is forced to take a break. What I’m talking about is not quitting for good, but instead continuing to believe, give, move, and change.