I've been around a long time, only a half-dozen years away from Abraham Lincoln's four score. I've known a number of "old" people over the years, but most of them are (or were) in their eighties, and a few in their nineties. But it occurred to me the other day that I now know several people around and over the one hundred milestone. And that got me to thinking about my own life. More on that later. First, those other people.
The woman who played the organ at our wedding, December 28, 1959 -- Mary Alice Marshall, of Temple, Texas -- came to Jan and my 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration two years ago, and she was 101 at the time. As I write this, she is still going strong at 102 (soon to be 103 on Christmas Day). She was director of music at Temple College and inspired thousands of young people -- including me -- during her long teaching career.
Then there is my friend Bill Quinn, of Fort Worth, Texas. He recognized what WalMart was doing to small towns, small businesses, and newspapers, long before anyone else did. He wrote a book in 1998 called, "How WalMart is Destroying America, and What You Can Do About It," (Ten Speed Press), revised in 2000 to "How WalMart is Destroying the World...." Bill is hanging in there at age ninety-nine, still railing against Sam Walton's empire. He is a retired publisher, and has devoted his later years speaking out against "WalMart, the Evil Empire."
And then there is my latest Centurian acquaintenance. On Friday, August 5, 2011, world-famous magician, actor, author, world-traveler John Calvert turned one hundred years old! That's 1-0-0 -- TEN DECADES! Since I have met Mr. Calvert twice -- when I attended his lectures to Ring 29 in Little Rock -- I can proudly say that I "know" him. But that's not unusual since he has been lecturing and performing thousands of times to hundreds of thousands of people for over six decades. Everybody -- especially in the world of magic -- knows John Calvert! Appropriately, he is on the cover of the August 2011 issue of The Linking Ring, and inside is a brief history of his life and career.
It is mind-boggline to think of all the world events, products invented, miracles witnessed, works of art created, etc., which these people have seen and heard over those one hundred years. It blows the mind to think of what they have lived through -- from World War I and II (and all the other wars), to the inventions of cars and airplanes and radio and television and computers and...basically EVERYTHING! Talk about witnessing and experiencing history! Each of these folks should write one or more books. Two of them have. I told you about Mr. Quinn's book above.
Recently I had the privilege of helping to edit Mr. Calvert's brand new book -- "How to Live to be One Hundred" (www.johncalvertmagic.com). It is a relatively short book, but is packed with a ton of good advice from someone who has "been there, done that." Of course he admits to having good genes. But he also reveals his ten decades of eating and living right, and gives lots of personal advice about how you, too, can live to be one hundred -- or at least longer than you would otherwise. And the book is loaded with great photos on John and his wife, Tammy -- both world travelers. (Spoiler alert: Mr. Calvert ends his book saying the secret to living to one hundred is to fall in love with and marry a woman thirty years younger than you, and get her to take good care of you!)
Yes, modern medicine has had something to do with people living longer. And we all have access to information and advice about living healthier lives. People are living longer, and better. As we celebrate the lives of those people who reach the Century mark, may we each consider our own lives. Are we living healthy? Are we living lives of worth and giving back? Are we positive in our attitudes and behavior? Are we using our skills and talents to make the world a little better. As my friend Jim Davidson (a youngster at seventy-three) says in his book, "Learning, Earning, and Giving Back," -- another book I edited -- each of us has a responsibility to "pay it forward," to "give back" what we have been given, to "share our blessings." What about you? Mr. Davidson is dedicated to teaching underprivileged children to read, giving them a bookcase of their own, with a starter set of books. (Go to: www.bookcaseforeverychild.com.)
Recently Jan and I drove past the site in Southwest Arkansas where we rolled a Volkswagen bus in 1967. Miraculously, none of us -- Jan, me, nor our two young children -- were hurt. The state police couldn't believe any of us survived. Many people at the car dealership had to come out to see this "lucky couple." As we left the stretch of highway where it all happened over forty years ago, Jan looked out the window and asked the unexpected and sobering question: "I wonder if we have done what we were meant to do." Sobering, indeed; I teared up at the thought, having asked myself that same question over the years.
Mary Alice Marshall, Bill Quinn, John Calvert, and Jim Davidson have lived their lives well -- giving back, sharing, educating, entertaining, etc. What will YOUR legacy be? When you arrive at the Pearly Gates will you hear the statement we all aspire to hear -- "Well done, good and faithful servant?"