This Summer my grandfather celebrated his 90th birthday. Not only has he lived more than nine decades, something that we all hope we can do, but he has accomplished this feat in incredible fashion. While he does reside in a nursing home now, he still walks unassisted, gets himself together in the morning, and takes care of himself for the most part. In fact, other than the Alzheimer’s disease that is slowly ravaging his memory, my grandpa is in better shape at 90 years old than most people are in their 70s. I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to better yourself is to find someone with positive qualities that you want to develop, and then try to model some of your own behaviors and habits after this person. Since living a long, full, healthy life is something that we all want, I have been thinking a lot about my grandfather’s life and trying to figure out how he has achieved such a long, fulfilling existence.
On paper, my grandfather’s life probably would not jump out and impress the casual observer. Anyone who knows him though, would tell you that he has experienced and achieved more in his lifetime than most men could in five (not that I am a biased grandson or anything). He did not graduate from high school, because he enlisted in the Navy to serve his country before finishing, yet he is an extremely intelligent man. While he could not tell you much about trigonometry or calculus, he could still do all of the necessary calculations to design and build a safe, solid, wheelchair accessible deck on my parent’s home (a structure that still stands to this day). He was married to my grandmother for more than half a century, and they loved each other just as much after 50 years of marriage as they did the day they said “I do.” He has fathered three children that all graduated from college and grew into successful, happy adults. My grandpa has never smoked, chewed tobacco, or used any drugs a day in his life, and even though he does like his beer (who doesn’t?), I have only seen him intoxicated at most a dozen times in my entire life. He has always taken care of his body and been in great shape physically, but he has never set foot in a gym. His workout regimen has always been a good, full, honest day’s work using the body that god gave him. Even though he has been “retired” for my whole life, until he reached his mid-70s I cannot think of a day that my grandfather was not out in his rusty, blue truck driving around town doing odd jobs for anyone who needed him.
After reading about just the handful of achievements that I have discussed here, most anyone would agree that my grandfather’s life has been a huge success. I agree that he has lived an amazing life, and done so in the “right” way, but in thinking about all of these things I realized something. As impressive as his lifetime of accomplishments are, these feats are not what has allowed my grandpa to lead such a long, full life. These achievements are not the cause of his ability to defy “Father Time,” but yet more effects of whatever quality has made his life so great and allowed him to live the way he has for so long. The secret to his lifetime of success is something much more abstract and ingrained deep within him. It is something much bigger than education or exercise, and it is something so integrated into who my grandfather is, that it is difficult to separate it from all of his other wonderful qualities. Being the curious grandson that I am though, I was determined to figure out his secret to seemingly eternal youth.
Since I had realized that my grandfather’s secret to a living a long, fulfilling life was going to be something deep within his heart and soul, I started thinking about what quality best describes him. It did not take me long to zero in on one particular personality trait, because it so nicely defines who he is. My grandpa is one of the happiest, warm, positive people you will ever meet. Whether he is meeting you for the first time or has known you for 50 years, he is going to greet you with a big smile, a lively handshake, and a sincere “How’s life?” He is always the first person to offer help to anyone, whether that be some kindness and a few laughs over a beer or 12 hours of labor fixing your heater in the dead of winter. No matter what you need, my grandpa is going to be first in line to offer a helping hand (or a cold beer…or two). After really thinking about this integral part of who my grandfather is, what I discovered is that this kind, selfless nature that defines who he is almost perfectly is his secret to eternal youth. His endless supply of smiles, never-ending positivity, and kind, generous heart are the things that have kept him young beyond his years and filled his long, awesome existence with so many amazing experiences.
This may not seem like a great revelation, as we all have heard countless times about how more positive and more giving people tend to live longer, but there is more to this discovery than that. It is not your actions that make the difference, but your state of mind. Even more than that, it is something that you have to fully accept and invest yourself in if you want to experience its full effects. You can volunteer every weekend, donate millions of dollars to charities, and smile at everyone you meet, but if you do not completely believe in what you are doing, you will never enjoy the same age-defying effects as my grandfather. You have to do these selfless, charitable acts, because you truly want to make others’ lives better, not because you feel you have to or “should.” You have to believe in this type of living with your whole being and let it become a part of your very core, in order to experience its life-improving gifts. It is only when you learn to live this way without even thinking because it is who you are, like my grandfather has, that you can tap into this “Fountain of Youth.”
Of the numerous lessons that my grandfather has taught me, this is definitely one of the most important. By modeling this incredible quality his entire life, he has taught me how to be a “good man” and live a full, happy, lengthy life. Without even trying, he has not only bettered the lives of all who know him, but he has also shown the rest of us how to experience the same wonderful life that he has. While I have not yet mastered this quality, I am definitely working on it, and I hope that you will too. Just imagine how great the world would be if we all lived the way my grandfather has. Plus, I want you to be around to read my Roll Models posts in the year 2076, when I am still blogging away at 90 years old.
Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.