A recent cartoon shows the late actress and comedian Betty White at the gates of heaven with St. Peter greeting her at the pearly gates. The caption reads: “It says so much about your life and legacy if people think you died too soon at 99.”
It is good that we honor those who have entertained us and given us comfort for a long time. It is particularly noteworthy that our youth-driven culture has found so much connection to an actress like Betty White, who already was a fixture on television long before the grandparents of many young adults were born.
Her life and death can continue to teach younger generations, though. Perhaps her status as an older person worthy of respect and admiration can help us to rediscover the senior adults all around us. During this past holiday season, it is likely that many of us interacted with men and women of an advanced age. Their wisdom can comfort, benefit and even entertain us as we seek to navigate this new year.
One does not have to be on the cover of People magazine or host “Saturday Night Live” to impact lives in positive ways. A vast majority of older adults in our lives will never be famous but can have an even greater impact than beloved celebrities like Betty White who have connected us across generations.
These difference-making adults can be found at the local Y, in our places of worship, in senior care centers and in our own families. A visit or a phone call can not only be a source of encouragement and comfort to our senior adults, but it can also add encouragement and direction to our own lives. Older generations are not just relics of the past, they are inspirations who remind us that perseverance is possible, even during difficult times. Their stories of the past can become the fertile soil of future wisdom for us. Their past experiences can become part of our map to the future.
So, for all the inspiration, entertainment and wisdom we gain from a well-known personality like the late, great Betty White, maybe her greatest gift to us is that this kind of encouragement and wisdom can be found a lot closer to home. Some of these encouraging and inspirational people may indeed be in our own homes. At the very least, they are only a short drive or a phone call away. Let’s honor them and learn from them while we still can.