Sunset Wisdom and Generosity

We did not have to compete with any electronic devices for his time and attention—although he struggled to raise his voice above the din of the room so we had to lean in quite close to one another. During our brief conversation the man left a lasting impression, dropping priceless pearls of wisdom from his lips—which is so often the case with people in their sunset years.

My colleague Christine Hills and I were staffing an exhibitor’s table for the Primate’s World Relief & Development Fund (PWRDF) at last weekend’s Synod in the Diocese of Toronto and we were very much in a listening mood when our gentleman caller came by. With sparkling brown eyes that gave us a hint of the handsomeness of his youth, we learned that he was a lay delegate from one of the Diocese of Toronto’s many rural parishes…there are still quite a few of those you know.

During the conversation he revealed a knowledge and love for wood carving. At one point he held out one of his weathered hands—with a badly scarred knuckle—to show us the site of an angry wound from years ago. With Christine holding his hand he looked from her to me and with great emphasis said, “Remember, you turn the wood…not the knife…the knife stays still.” We sat quietly for a moment, looking at one another, absorbing what he’d said and then he bid us farewell as the Synod was about to begin.

While driving home that night I was still thinking of the man-his kind demeanor, his pleasant smile, his weathered old hands and his words of wisdom. I couldn’t shake the imagery of the sharpening tool, held firm, with the wood doing the turning, bending and twisting to be shaped and formed. I had always imagined the exact opposite; that the knife did all the work, busily looking for angles, grooves and new positions—much the same way as I had always imagined Christ at work in my life.

I wondered though about the fresh perspective this piece of seasoned wisdom had given me. I pulled into my driveway with a different vision of Christ as the sharpening tool—this time holding firm, steadfast in position—while I do the awkward (often uncomfortable) work of bending and turning while my life takes shape—even if I’m not too sure what the finished product is going to look like, or if the process makes much sense to me right now.

I have known many people in their 80s and 90s who have a deep and genuine passion to share a lifetime’s worth of wisdom—in a spirit of true generosity—with those who will listen and they are a gift for which I am very grateful.

And even though I’m from the “young whippersnapper generation” that often forgets to do as much listening as we should, God has a way of putting the right people in our paths at the right time…and it is all the more meaningful when those people are of the wise, old sage variety.

In this blog, Michelle Hauser, manager of annual giving, tackles the topic of generosity—from small stories of daily inspiration to the overall mission of the church.

  • Ian&Jocelyn Bullen-Edgar

    Great post, it was really touching!  Thank you.

  • Ian&Jocelyn Bullen-Edgar

    Great post!  Thanks for sharing a story like that, its so moving to here of a real connection between strangers!  
    God Bless