Turning 30 didn’t faze me – I was happy that as a young professional I had reached an age of credibility. Turning 40 didn’t really faze me either – I felt young and successful, with a great wife, happy family and a good career. Forty-nine is rocking my world. It can make you wonder about the beauty of growing older and wiser.
Last week I attended the funeral of a college classmate. He was 49 years old. We lived next door to each other our freshman year at Gustavus Adolphus College in 1981. He was a 6’ 5” basketball player – I was a 5’ 6” musician who was trying to make the tennis team. Neither of us achieved our collegiate athletic goals – we both excelled in social situations. Literally hundreds of adoring people packed a local Lutheran Church in honor of a wonderful man and father who touched so many lives with his phenomenal coaching and social skills. He grew up the son of Lutheran Pastor. He faithfully taught Sunday school for 30 years and volunteered for Youth Group mentoring even as his own kids were grown and gone. He was a pillar of faith in the St. Louis Park community. Adored by one and all.
Tragically, he passed away from a massive heart attack. He died suddenly, with very little time for pain, or the opportunity to say good-byes. Unfortunately, my 6’ 5” friend was significantly overweight – he was the poster child for the heavy-and-happy personae that is acceptable today. He simply rejected the thought that he “had to” work out.
The next morning, I was tired and fighting off a cold. While sipping my first cup of morning coffee in my morning-prayer chair, I was filled with a sense of sorrow for his children and anger about the injustice. Forty-nine is so young. The clock on the mantel woke me from my prayer and signaled that it is time to get out of the chair and onto the treadmill. The coffee hadn’t yet overcome the dredges from the Nyquil hangover…and for a split second I considered skipping the workout. I could use the time to rest.
But then the thought occurred to me. My college classmate didn’t get to work out today. Despite whatever Nyquil hangover I was fighting…I “get to” work out today.
While running on the treadmill I saw a report on the Today Show about all of the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are maimed and injured – learning to live out their lives with significant physical disabilities. Thousands will never walk normally. Many never came home. And many of those who came home will never “get to” work out.
So, in my ongoing battle with maintaining my own fitness, I’ve found a new motivation. I’m still holding out hope that I will actually learn to enjoy the exercise that is so important to my mind, body and spirit. In my prayers I am adding something new: I am grateful for a new day to break a sweat and remember that as much as I hate working out…I’m feeling fortunate that I “get to.”
Good leaders find ways every day to be grateful for the opportunities – and challenges – in our lives.
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