Early Birds (Minus The Worms)

by Rich on September 3, 2018

Six a.m. is early for most people. But the older you get, the less early 6 a.m. feels.

This morning, a holiday morning, I was up at 6 a.m.. And it didn’t suck. And there are a couple of reasons for that.

My day job begins at five in the morning, and, being a divorced guy in a small town, that means that I can set my alarm for 4:30 and be in the office at five. Alarm, bathroom, teeth, clothes, bed (yes, I make the bed. Extra pillows and all), prepacked daily gear, keys, a nine minute commute if I hit every red light, and I’m in the office. Convenient. So 6:00 in the morning is an extra hour and a half, even if I go to bed later than usual.

The other reason is that, as I get older (pushing 50. Not there yet, but I’m close enough to read the warning label), I enjoy the early morning hours of quiet and peace. The luxury of having a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise while I have some private time is something I value more and more.

I bring all of this up because this morning I noticed something that I had not really noticed before.

I live in a college town. And that is both great and horrible, and for the same reason. It’s great because I am surrounded by the enthusiasm and energy of youth. Every day I interact with young people with all of life laid out before them. All the choices, all the possibilities… the world is their oyster.

It’s horrible because it’s a constant reminder that I am no longer young and will never have all of those myriad of options in life. Every decision leads to a direction that changes your options. And I’ve been through enough that, well, some doors are now pretty much closed.

But this morning, I noticed something that gave me hope. It maximized the great and lessened the horrible.

I had to go meet my son at the repair shop. He works 3rd shift and his old car is on the fritz. Life. He’s learning fast. So I was out and about, not just up, at this early hour. We met at the shop, took care of business and then I headed back home to my little condo that I love, tucked into a corner about a thousand yards from campus. And as I made that drive home I saw 3 people that made me reconsider some things.

Like I said before, living in a college town means being surrounded by youth. It is not uncommon to see lithe young bodies with 5 % body fat and perfectly toned muscles, cruising around town in the latest fashionable running gear, barely breaking a sweat as they nail 8 minute miles on their daily 10 ks. At 3 in the afternoon. In August. When it’s 94° and 90% humidity.

But what I saw this morning was different. Three individuals. A man. Maybe my age, maybe older. Same amount of gray in his beard. Not an Olympian, but maybe a former athlete. In good shape. Striding along at his somewhat leisurely pace. One New Balance shoe in front of the other. In his comfort zone. Working, but getting it done. A woman. Probably younger than me, but not by much (and who can tell anymore, let’s be real here). Hair up, hat on, iPhone in a fanny pack, fast walking with hand weights and really getting after it. Purposeful. Intense. On a mission. Another man. My age or there about. Wrong shoes, wrong socks, wrong shorts, sweat band on his receding hairline. Working hard. Barely making it. Not fat, but heavy. Determined to reach whatever goal he had set, be it distance or time. Huffing and panting, just trying to breathe.

All of a sudden I was inspired. I was motivated. I was comforted. I was encouraged and revitalized. These were my people. No longer full of the blossoming potential of youth, but refusing to allow time to limit their potential. I had never noticed them because I’m usually at work. But this day I did notice them. These three people know what I am starting to know.

Do it now, because there may not be a later.

I don’t say that to be morose or negative. There is a liberation in that. These people started their days by doing something. Something for themselves. Working, striving, efforting toward a goal. To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, they were not content to sit on the sidelines as the events that effected them unfolded to determine the course of their lives. They were making a stand. Drawing a line in the sand and refusing to go gentle into that good night. And making it a priority. So much so that the sunrise was part of their routine.

So let the youth have their afternoons and nights. I do not begrudge them that. Life is full and pizzas magically disappear from your waistline when you’re 21. Good for them. But I know something they haven’t figured out yet and cannot fathom with the absence of experience: get it done now, for nothing after this moment is guaranteed.

Six a.m. may be early for them, but really, the older you get, the less early it feels.

Times a wastin’…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mom September 4, 2018 at 9:17 am

Love it. Thank you, Lord, for giving Rich the eyes to “see”!

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