We sat across the table waiting for our meal, just as we had dozens of times before. There was so much familiar about the evening: stories of his pranks, her laughter, an explanation of why they moved to a different neighborhood, how the employees at a nearby pizza place know them by name.
However, a few things were different. He wears a hearing aid now. The stairs were getting too hard to manage, so they relocated to a one-story home. And his answers aren’t as quick as they used to be.
“I turned 70 last year,” he said.
Not possible. I have close friends who are 70? How did this happen?
We’ve known the couple for two decades.
Since we moved to California, we see them occasionally. And once the greetings are over, our conversation picks up where we left off the last time.
Isn’t that how it is with close friends with history? Who’ve watched each other’s kids grow up and move away, who’ve traveled life’s road side by side for any number of years.
Changes take place whether we notice or not.
Another friend told me, because he didn’t want to become a grouch in his later years, he accepts the changes and learns new ways of doing things. He took hold of technology and made it work for him.
“New is good,” he said.
Knowing what’s worth holding onto, what to embrace, what to release, what to alter to fit current needs – this may not look the same for everyone. Yet we’re all affected by the constant movement of all that surrounds us.
Families, communities, schools, organizations, manufacturers of consumer goods, creation – all experience change.
Nature isn’t static. Every living thing is changing in some way, from microscopic organisms and the subculture of insects in my garden to the stars and planets in galaxies light years away.
Only dead things don’t change. (Except to decompose. But you know what I mean.)
Your family doesn’t look the same as it did five years ago. New additions – by birth or marriage – alter the dynamics of your clan, and affect the ancestry of your future offspring.
Four months before our firstborn left for college, I cried for two weeks straight. Then the whisper came, “This is what the past 18 years have been about.” Remember? And this is good, growing up and leaving home to be a man, to pursue the life he’s been given…
“You’re getting too tall,” I’d tell her. “Stop growing.”
She grew up anyway.
Yet, when a baby doesn’t gain weight, or a child isn’t growing taller, there’s a problem. It’s not normal, not healthy. And we ask the doctor, “What’s wrong?”
A stuck life isn’t healthy, either. No doubt because the world is changing at a more rapid pace than it did in previous centuries, some of us are cautious. There’s security with things tried and tested and proven over time.
We understand, not all changes are beneficial.
But we don’t have to be afraid. Or angry at what’s been lost. Stagnation occurs where all remains the same.
Churches are known for this. Clinging to traditions and limiting their vision for new and broader outreach.
In Martin Luther’s day, one of the great theological debates was whether communion should be taken in a goblet made of silver or of gold.
Today we use disposable plastic cups.
Pastoral staff and elders need discernment for knowing how to maintain foundational doctrines while serving their congregations and reaching their communities in an ever-changing culture.
But religion isn’t the only sector where we trip over misplaced ideals or get too attached to personal preferences.
In the mid-20th-century-old neighborhoods in large metropolis areas faced demise as people left the crowded city to reside in quiet suburbs.
Smaller homes in new developments boasted cozy living spaces and yards that were easy to maintain. These structures were made for families to spend time together – not as symbols of wealth and power.
Following the two great wars, ranch houses and split-level dwellings were built for a new world, fulfilling the American Dream of homeownership. Designers and builders of tract homes became the innovators of their time
Yet now, 60 or 70 years later, those same city neighborhoods that were once neglected have been revived by entrepreneurs. They found inexpensive properties where they could start small businesses, open cafes and unique shops. What was old is made new. Where familiarity saw only ruin, fresh eyes discovered potential.
While change happens all around us, life provides opportunities and invites us to join the celebration. Instead of distancing ourselves from the future, we can welcome the changes. Find the good, build on the past and make whatever adjustments are necessary to continue the journey.
Debbie Croft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.