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Cheryl Hughes: Life Expectancy

My daughter, Natalie, sent me a text with a picture attached.  The picture was of a hummingbird.  She had drawn it freehand.  It was beautiful.  The text said, “My whole life I was never able to draw.  I approach 40, and it’s a miracle!”

 “You gotta get something outta turning 40,” I texted back.

My sister, Marsha, (seven years older than I am) told me when I was 53 that I wouldn’t believe how tired I was going to be at 60.  She was right, but the strange thing is I have gained more energy at age 65.  Maybe, it’s an attitude thing. 

This morning at church, a friend said to me, “The older I get, the harder it is for me to behave.”

I understood completely.  That is definitely an attitude thing.  As you age, the screen between your brain and your mouth starts to disintegrate.  You don’t tiptoe around people’s feelings.  You find yourself voicing your opinions on controversial subjects, and you can’t even will yourself to shut up.  Trust me, I’ve tried.

In 1860, the life expectancy in America was a mere 30.4 years (   I wonder if people in that era found the brain/mouth/screen thing happening to them as they approached age 27 or 28.  They were old people by that age. The other thing to consider is the difference in life expectancy.  I don’t mean how long we are expected to live, I’m talking about what we expect from life.

I did an interview once with a soldier who had returned from Afghanistan.  The thing that struck him as odd about the Afghan people he met was their attitude that daily life unfolded as it should.  They believed Allah was in charge of all, and everything that happened in their lives was up to him, not them.  That would definitely take a lot of pressure off your shoulders, but it is a complete juxtaposition to the American attitude. 

In America, we learn from an early age that “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”  There is tremendous pressure on the individual to succeed.  The other practice in our country that is different from other cultures is the tendency for the parents to wait until after their deaths to leave their children an inheritance.   In the Jewish culture as well as the Indian culture, children grow up in extended families and receive help, not only while they are growing up, but also when they become adults.  They are welcomed into family businesses or given capital from the extended family to strike out on their own.

In America, there is the expectation for the individual to prove themselves before they are rewarded, probably because their parents had to prove themselves before they were rewarded, their grandparents had to prove themselves before they were rewarded, etc., etc.

The other thing to consider is the tendency for our government to give welfare to people whom the rest of the population deems unworthy, because of the disinclination of the welfare recipients to work.  The big gripe in our country is that we are rewarding laziness.  In view of that, if we have children who work, we should be like other cultures and help them if we are financially able.

Another result of expecting the individual to make or break his or her life is blame, and boy does our country have that in spades.  I understand the principal that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” but we have basically eradicated the concept of the accident.

I propose that sometimes, with emphasis on the word “sometimes,” stuff just happens.  There isn’t always someone to blame.  If you live in this country, you would never know it.  Blaming others is big business.  We expect somebody to do something about every dip in the road.  I understand that there are times when there is somebody that is to blame, and there is a need for justice, but more times than not, there is more need for help and understanding.   

I don’t know how long I will live, but I know what my life expectancy is.  As long as I’m alive, I expect to be able to help my family and friends on our journey through this life, without blaming them if they fall down along the way.


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