Dr. Mike Obsatz, Professor Emeritus at Macalester College
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A Compassionate Ear and a Passion for Positive Change
There Is No Present Like TIME
In the movie called "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" about elderly people in India, Judi Dench's character states: "There is no present like time." This, of course, is a take-off on "There is no time like the present."
I have been thinking a lot about time lately. Am I old?
After all, I one of the first ones approved for the COVID vaccine. Am I retired? No, I don't think so. Parts of my life have changed, but I am still in the world, doing something I hope is valuable to others. My official "jobs" are over.
I taught college for 40 years. I was a therapist in private practice for 25 years. I led men's and couple support groups for 25 years. But I am still a husband, a father, a friend, a grandfather, an uncle, and a community member.
All of these official occupations were a big part of my life. But my life goes on after those endeavors are completed. I wrote books, plays, and produced films. They are still out there, and on my shelves. But they are not my essence.
I have wondered with this virus, "How long do I really have to live?" I don't know. I've never known, and I don't know now. So, it is not yet my time to die. Being close to 80 seems like it is moving into the final stretch. Betty White turns 100 as I write this. Cicely Tyson is 96. Both are functioning, creative, and inspiring people. Maybe I have lots of time? The question remains: What do I do with this precious, amazing time?
What I have come to believe is that TIME IS A GIFT. TIME is not to be taken for granted. As long as I am able to listen, support others, and live with compassion, I will continue to do so. It doesn't have a name, or definition. It is just a blessed gift of time. As my wife, Gloria, says, "It is my job to be available."
Time to be available. To be a constant force for love in the world. Maybe that's what it is all about. Using the time when I have energy, health, and prosperity to be a light in the world. This means living in integrity, being consistent, telling the truth, supporting those in need and having a compassionate ear. I can also promote social and racial justice, fairness, equality for all, and mindfulness about the environment.
Yeah, that's it. A Compassionate Ear and a Passion for Positive Change. I can share my ideas, and make suggestions when I am asked to do so. I am committed to being present, loving, and kind.
There is no job definition of those, and no paycheck.
But, my time has come to use what I have studied and learned about people, social institutions, and how life seems to work -- to be an elder.
Wait a minute. Being an "elder" is too limiting also. I am every age I have ever been. Maybe it goes like this: Just be, be grateful for the gift of time, the health, the ability to shut up when necessary, to speak up when it makes sense, reach out and pay attention.
So -- that's my identity. That's my category. No category -- but continuing to do God's will, to bring out more peace, understanding, and justice in the world.
We certainly need it. Thank you, God, for the gift of TIME.