In early October I spoke about the topics in my book, Please Pass the Faith, at my very first senior’s retreat. While I’ve talked and written about the importance of embracing our aging, I was still surprised by how much I enjoyed myself with its participants. Senior’s Retreats, I discovered, provide one of very few safe places for older adults to share about burdens of supporting adult children with their life struggles. In most places we only feel free to share the positives about our children and grandchildren. I also discovered these retired folk to be living with an extra dose of grace and joy. They were the kind of seniors I’d like to grow up to be!
These appealing attributes of grace and joy were also the focus of a special afternoon treat. Jep Hostetler, author of The Joy Factor, provided a presentation “Growing Older with Grace and Joy.” Jep is also a 75-year-old retired medical professor who has done research regarding humour and spirituality among some Benedictine monks and sisters, a magician, and an optimist who still “jumps up and then looks around to see if there’s a place to land.”(p. 77) He understands joy as “a deeper sense of internal celebration, stability, buoyancy, and steadiness. Joy is spiritual depth and self awareness. Joy is like a deep, wide, slow moving, sparkling river.”(p.15) He even claimed “you can be on a river of joy in a boat full of sorrow.” This intrigued me to learn more, so I read his book, which was good, but not as dynamic or enjoyable as experiencing him in person.
His presentation, which was interspersed with jokes and magic tricks, included a good dose of wisdom about connecting across the generations, sharing family stories, accepting our ‘new normals’ with grace and faith, celebrating, finding harmless humour in situations, giving ourselves permission to laugh and play, practicing hospitality and building hope.
After twenty years of speaking on the subject of joy Jep has become deeply convinced that joy is obtainable. It is a choice for all of us, even for those with a predisposition toward melancholy.
After experiencing this senior’s retreat and Jep’s presentation, I just think he might be right. I’m going to try deliberately choosing joy for the next while.