How old is old?  Your relative age seems to be a guide to that alluring perspective when it pertains to such judgment.

A small child may think their parents are old.  The teen would undoubtedly think someone in their 30s or 40s is ancient.  Maybe someone at midlife, like myself, might feel anyone in their 70s or 80s is up there.

Recently my Mother, for the first time in her life, admitted she thought she was old at 77.

We all race toward that checkered flag of finality.  Some speed through life without much regard for the obstacles around the bend.  Others take a more conscientious approach to the race we run.  Self-reflection may or may not sprout in us at times, but when tragic circumstances knock upon our door or that of others it often invokes those reflective thoughts indeed.

A good friend was conducting a fundraiser a week or so back for his 15-year-old nephew who has an inoperable brain tumor.  As I write the doctors have told the family “It’s just a matter of time.”  (Cancer’s a horrible disease and is a respecter of no one)

An acquaintance of my wife also has that dreaded disease.  Surgeons have operated on the cancerous masses he has in his colon several times.  The original prognosis was he had six weeks to live, yet he’s beat the odds so far.

Although I’d never wish to be thrust into a dilemma like that, I’ve often wondered what I’d do if given only a short time to live.

I’ve asked others numerous times what they would do if given six weeks, six months, or a year to live.  I’ve heard things like go to Vegas, spend all my money on the lottery, take a trip around the world, or any number of things that take a concerted effort.

The general consensus for many would no doubt be that doing nothing is the essence of laziness.  In retrospect, if my time was short, I’d absolutely do what the world views as a waste of time.

We’re defined by our choices in life, aren’t we?  Most of us are just too busy with the busyness of life we’ve inflicted upon ourselves or allowed to occur.

On my last birthday I vowed to do nothing the entire day – it was a wondrous and enlightening event.  I’m an individual with a busy schedule.  I rise early every day, and go to bed late – sound familiar?  However, I slept in on my birthday.  When I awoke, I laid in bed and stared out the window.  I never noticed before, but one can see the dust particles adrift in the air in bright sunlight.

Ever since that time I notice things I never cared to before.

The beauty of a sunrise, with its orange or purple hues, isn’t just some passing fancy any longer.  Indeed, no two are alike.  Lately I cherish that, for one never knows how many more you may view.  Every sunset is a masterpiece anymore, there’s passion in the rain, and an alluring intrigue in watching lightning dance amongst the clouds in a distant storm.

One could point an accusatory finger and lay blame on all else, I’m sure, but it’s the simple things we let pass by with little thought before it’s much too late.

Instead of smashing an insect into oblivion, watch it with intrigue.  Take the time to watch the birds.  I was awakened by the flutter of a hummingbird’s wings once and when I opened my eyes it was hovering only inches from my face.  It startled me, but I have been amazed with those marvelous creatures ever since.

I’ve never been much of a dancer, but I dance more alone than ever before.

I’ve always had this wild notion of what it would be like to stare down a cow.  I acted on that thought the other day and stopped on the side of the road.  Cattle were standing beside the fence, and I walked up to one.  I stared it in the eye.  As you might have guessed, it didn’t blink.

Why not vow to laugh more, do things spontaneously without much thought, bark up the wrong tree, or make a fool of yourself just because you can.  There’s invaluable benefits to soaking in the world which entangles us.  It’s our choice how to play those cards we’ve been dealt.

Who knows, I might just have “Here lies a do-nothing-type guy” etched upon that granite sentinel atop my final resting place.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at

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