The professor challenged his students to get to know someone they didn't already know. One of the football players felt a gentle touch on his shoulder and as he turned found a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at him. A smile lit her entire being. She said, "Hello handsome. My name is Rose and I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"
He laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Sure you can Rose!" and he was given a giant squeeze. He asked with a twinkle in his eye, "Rose, why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" Immediately she responded, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of kids, and then retire and travel."
"Seriously, why are you here? What's motivated you to take on this challenge at your age?"
She said, "I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told him.
After class they walked to the student union building and shared a vanilla milkshake. They became instant friends. Every day for three months they would leave class together and talk nonstop. He was mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared from her vast experience and practical wisdom.
That year, Rose became a campus icon and made friends easily. She loved the attention the kids blessed her with. Her life was full.
At the conclusion of the semester Rose was invited to speak at the football banquet. She taught them an important lesson. One could tell that she was a bit nervous and frustrated and a bit embarrassed. Her jitteriness caused her to drop her note cards on the floor. She looked at her audience and said, "I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."
As the audience laughed she cleared her throat and began, "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy and achieving success in life. You have to laugh and find humor everyday. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!
There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am 87 years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn 88. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets." She concluded her speech by courageously singing, "The Rose."
She challenged each of those students to study the lyrics and live them out in their daily lives.
At the end of the year Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation rose died peacefully in her sleep.
Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never to late to be all you can possibly be.
Remember, growing old is mandatory - growing up is optional. (Forwarded E-mail 5/16/01)
-Derl G. Keefer, Preaching November/December 2002