An old lady in the Costco parking lot got really mad at me yesterday.
(By “old” – I mean that she appeared to be in her late sixties. My apologies to my friends who may be advanced in years – YOU aren’t old!)
I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that the entire city of Austin decided to go to Costco yesterday, and there was an automobile slugfest in the parking lot. I was on the wrong side of the aisle when I spotted her pulling out, and as she was backing up, I pulled slightly forward and to the right to get out of her way.
What followed was a lot of arm waving and rude gesturing and angry eyes and words I couldn’t hear (thankfully.) As I sat there in disbelief, she laid on her horn and then gunned her fancy BMW SUV toward the hood of my car. The look in her eyes was memorable – as was the nervous look in the eyes of her passenger – a woman that looked old enough to be her mother.
Maybe she’d had a bad day. Maybe she’d just had someone shout at her. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she hadn’t started her Christmas shopping yet. Didn’t she know it’s the most wonderful time of the year??
But I couldn’t help thinking of something that my mother passed down to me (and has given to a lot of other women) – an essay called “Meet An Old Lady”. The author is unknown. It might take you a couple of minutes to read – but it’s sobering and well worth the time.
“You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, ten, twenty, thirty years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.
She may be a seasoned, soft and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends – friends who call her ‘blessed’ because of what her life has meant to them.
She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything – soured, friendless, alone.
The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her – nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.
Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. You are becoming her.
If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.
Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.
The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will – sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now – attitudes, goals, ambitions, desires – are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.
The time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is still pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.
Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.”
I am thankful for that mean old lady yesterday – she reminded me of who I don’t want to become. I’ve known a lot of gentle, kind, and beautiful “old” ladies in my time. My mother and my mother-in-law are at the very tip top of the list. Gwen Worthy. Ruth Locke. Inaleen Varner. And so many, many, many more! I’m going to meet an old lady sooner than I think – hopefully she will be soft and gentle and kind and admirable.