A Long Journey and What I’ve Learned Along the Way

The journey begins and Roger has no idea what he'll see, do, and learn from there to here.
The jourey begins and Roger has no idea what he’ll see, do, and learn from there to here.

A FEW THINGS I’VE LEARNED on my way to becoming an octogenarian (which officially occurred today, May 6, 2015):

Despite what you may have been told, yes, do take wooden nickels. The way our zany monetary system works – or doesn’t – they now are worth more than the real kind.

Realize that love is also a four-letter word. The good kind.

Don’t confuse loudness with courage. Courage – real courage – is quiet. Shhhh.

You have creative talents and abilities. It is largely up to you to recognize and develop them not only for your benefit but, more importantly, for the benefit of others.

Don’t be a showoff. But on the other hand, don’t – to borrow a line from a movie I’ve long since forgotten the name of – assign yourself to a role of invisibility.

Have fun.

Never retire. Just switch work stations. Work is the oboe of the soul. It will smooth, soothe.

Don’t be the one who drops out of the band just before it gets the big break. When the going gets tough, get tougher.

Roger Summers
Roger Summers

Always be mindful that you have an inner light. Don’t leave home without turning it on. You never know when you might cross paths with someone in dire need of a ray or two of sunshine.

Despite what your doctor tells you, have an ice cream cone now and then. Just because. Besides, there are times when it is the best medicine around.

Take others under your wing. Help them fly. Be proud when some of them soar.

Keep ears open, mouth closed. You learn more.

Discover and then develop your unique talents – and, yes, you do have them – and then use them to delight and encourage and serve others.

You will be jarred by potholes. Not all of them will be in the street.

There’s a reason you went out to recess in grade school. Remember that when you are all grown up.

No, you were not born with a cell phone in your ear though some seem determined to make it that way.

It is true, you won’t be able to take it with you. So invest all you have in others.

If you still belong to an age that believes it invented sex, you still have a long, long way to go before you are all grown up.

Exalt others. Never diminish.

If you would conduct the perfect meeting, have everyone stand.

Did I mention you should have fun?

Schools teach. But the street is also a great place to learn.

Maybe you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But make sure you carry a song in your heart. And don’t keep it there. Let it out.

Bajillions of words have come from places of worship and seminaries and religious books about how to live. But they can all be boiled down to just five words: Look out for each other.

It is all right to pursue money. Just don’t follow it into the ditch.

Show me someone who claims they are self made and I will show you an ingrate who has a faulty memory, one who has forgotten many who have helped them along the way.

Give others a smile. Trust me, they’ll give it right back to you.

Live as if each hour is your last. And you are at a New Year’s Eve dance.

Don’t dare think mankind has resolved every problem, that there is nothing left to do, no work still to be done. Start with taking dead aim at hate. Lots of job opportunity there.

Learn something new each day. Also realize there are enormous dividends earned from putting in overtime on this.

Give others a book now and then. Might be surprised at the reading it will give them on life.

Consider that time can be wisely used or squandered. Your call.

Take a back seat sometimes. Put others in the driver’s seat. Might be surprised how far down the road they can take you.

Put all of yourself into each day. Each second, too.

Hearts come in two temperatures – cold and warm. Which do you think best keeps the world – and you — humming?

Take time not only to smell the roses but to also hear the songbirds, watch the sun come up, watch the sun go down. If you are too busy for these, you are too busy.

Smile, laugh, because it helps others.

Smile, laugh because it helps you.

And, as one family member reminds, always polish the back of your shoes.

And, oh yes, did I mention you should have some fun?

Must rush off now.

Off at 90 miles an hour to see what a nonagenarian is.

Dressed to the nines, of course.

And what we might just learn from that age.

Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author. As has long been his birthday practice, he will enjoy steak and eggs for breakfast.

Roger Summers is author of Heart Songs from a Washboard Road.

Roger Summers
Roger Summers

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Roger, you have the wisdom to pick up life’s greatest lessons and stick them in your pocket as you make the journey. You may be eighty, but your writing today is as good as it was when we covered our beats for the Star-Telegram. It may be even better. But now your words are tempered with wisdom instead of the lust for front page bylines.

  • Roger Summers

    Thank you, Caleb.

  • Don Newbury

    Roger, what a wonderful, succinct sermon! Could also be great fodder for in-service presentations to school teachers. If I think of it, I’ll give you the credit. Oh, and the part about not “assigning yourself to a role of invisibility.” Maybe a few more words are in order: “or invincibility.” A truly thoughtful piece.

  • Don Newbury

    Forgot to mention: Our family was always so poor, the best we could do was dress to the 8s….

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