It’s encouraging to know that age is not a barrier to progress.
I learned that lesson early from a neighbor – a childhood friend’s father, Mr. Fierke. We were still in high school when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 at General Mills, where he managed the flour division. Without hesitation, he enrolled in a six-month training course to become a stockbroker, after which he began a 23-year career with a well-known brokerage firm. After that, he continued to live an active life.
In recent times, age has become less and less a factor in deciding when one should retire – or whether one should retire at all. It’s quite common for individuals to want – or need – to continue working during their senior years. Many businesses are actually wooing senior workers, and mandatory retirement ages have been disappearing from the horizon. Employers are valuing seniors for their maturity, dependability, and experience – and, I also think, for the inspiration their example can bring to the workplace.
Mr. Fierke’s example certainly inspired me, as well as many others, I’m sure.
Qualities that make a worker especially valuable at any age – a never-ending eagerness to learn, a desire to be productive, and a love of contributing something of value to society – are essentially spiritual; they have their source in God, the Creator of us all. When these qualities well up within an individual, the light of divine Life and Love is reflected in the character of that person, and it brightens the surrounding atmosphere for the benefit of everyone. The Bible puts it this way: “[T]he path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). Or, as Eugene Peterson interprets that passage in “The Message,” “The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine.”
One can easily see why an employer would seek workers such as these. Regardless of their age, such individuals display a degree of maturity and stick-to-itiveness that makes them responsible, reliable, industrious, and productive. They are generally service-oriented, rather than me-oriented – and therefore cooperative, rather than competitive – thus elevating the entire work environment to a higher level of harmony, progress, and productivity.
Individuals with an open-ended view of progress tend also to be freer of fears associated with aging. Because of their vital and ever-growing interest in life, learning, and the welfare of others, they don’t settle into worrisome self-concern or a humdrum view of existence. Their sense of worth is nurtured day by day, knowing that they are learning something new each day and contributing something, regardless of how humble that contribution may be.
A progressive view of life is enormously satisfying. And businesses that want to move forward are definitely benefited by employees who have that progressive view. I agree with Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote, “Infinite progression is concrete being...” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 82). Knowing there are no barriers to progress is a solid basis upon which to build a business – or a life.