Three Birthday Wishes

Harriet-1948 1

One of the earliest photos I have of myself – another treasure from that vintage suitcase. Circa 1948, Matopo Mission, Southern Rhodesia.

As I celebrate my birthday on primary election day in Pennsylvania, in the middle of one of the oddest and most frustrating presidential campaigns ever (in my memory, at least), there are many things I could wish for, but I’ve limited myself to three wishes. One relates directly to presidential politics, one looks beyond this year’s election to the future, and one is more personal as I edge ever closer to my seventh decade.

I wish for a U. S. political system that is fair and based more closely on the concept of one-person, one-vote. An upside of this crazy political season has been the exposure of a system that doesn’t really operate that way. Instead, it relies heavily on arcane and complicated rules and the behind-the-scenes machinations of Republican and Democratic Party officials; during the primaries, it disenfranchises many voters who choose not to register as Republicans or Democrats; it allows states to enact new laws and procedures that in effect make it more difficult rather than easier for many people to vote; it feels like wealthy individuals have undue influence on the outcome; it rewards gerrymandering by both parties. While I understand how difficult it would be, both logistically and politically, to change the system, I believe democracy would be so much better served if we could. Perhaps one positive result of the 2016 presidential election cycle will be some steps in that direction. I wish….

I wish for a world in which my grandchildren and their children and grandchildren can survive and thrive. That kind of world is in many ways summed up in the “fruit of the Spirit,” as enumerated in Galatians 5 – a world where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control abound. Just writing those words makes me feel like my wish is a pipe dream, completely unattainable, and the stuff of unrealistic idealism that doesn’t recognize the realities of evil in the world. But, what if everyone truly tried to embody those characteristics? Or as a start, what if everyone who claims to be Christian did?

In the world I wish for, my grandchildren and their children and grandchildren will:

  • Live with hope and optimism that they can make a positive difference in the world, rather than be ruled by fear and apocalyptic pessimism
  • Be part of systems that are generous and compassionate toward the dispossessed and marginalized
  • Have plenty of clean air and clean water, along with beautiful natural spaces to explore and enjoy
  • Live in safe neighborhoods, not threatened by random gun violence or other threats to their well-being
  • Be able to get an excellent education and quality healthcare without saddling themselves with huge debt
  • Have equal opportunities and not be discriminated against, regardless of their gender, race, or ethnicity
  • Learn how to be peacemakers and resolve conflicts in ways that don’t depend on violence and hateful rhetoric
  • Be willing to forgive and show mercy to those who might not deserve it
  • Recognize that their own freedom should not come at the expense of others
  • Treat others the way they wish to be treated

I wish to be able to age well. When I think about what my parents were like at the age I am today (68), I remember them as already seeming old, even though they lived to be really old (91 and 93, respectively). When I think of myself, I don’t feel old; in fact, except for those periodic aches and pains (like the “crick” I’ve had in my shoulder for the last few days), I feel like I’m still in my 40s. But I have one child who is in her 40s, and another who is approaching that milestone, so clearly I’m not. I might not be old yet, but I’m certainly well on my way!

At my annual wellness exam in February, the nurse checked my mental status – something I assume is a standard part of wellness exams for those of Medicare age. She gave me three words to remember while she conducted some other tests, and then instructed me to repeat the three words. This test always panics me a bit: what if I can’t remember the words? But I had no trouble, and in fact still remember the three words: apple, table, penny. If I remember the words all the way to next year’s exam, will that prove that there is no cognitive decline?

If I had my wish, good aging would include the continued pleasure of good and loving relationships with family and friends, interesting hobbies, travel, meaningful activities, and being able to contribute to a better and more peaceful world. It would be free of excessive pain and devastating disease, and it would not include cognitive decline. But I know that what I wish for may not happen. I have some control – for example, I knit, read, play word games, and write, which are all activities that are supposed to keep one’s brain active – but there are many things I can’t control. When the inevitable aging process begins to take its toll in significant ways, I wish for the patience and grace to accept it and not become a difficult person, filled with anger, bitterness, depression, and regrets. I may not want to “go gentle into that good night,” but I also don’t want to resist it so much that I make myself and everyone else miserable! I want to age well, and then to die well.

Three wishes for my birthday. Which ones will come true?

 

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9 thoughts on “Three Birthday Wishes

  1. Thank you for sharing your birthday musings.
    Two reactions–first, in general our system of government is a representative government, i.e. a republic. However, on one point the constitution is clear–one “man” one vote. BUT throughout our history it has not always been thus. The faults you cite are best the latest iteration. One the other side–pure democracy is very scary.
    Second, the cognitive test and the three words. I too had that test not too long ago, and I asked the health practitioner–do they change the words from time to time. She said–no. I thought–well, a lot of good that does.

    • Donna, I agree that pure democracy has its shortcomings as well, but I am just so appalled by the flaws in our “republic” system that have come out so sharply this time around.

      I wondered but didn’t ask about whether the three words change from year to year. It is odd that they don’t. On the other hand, if I can remember them for a whole year, doesn’t that all by itself say something about my lack of cognitive decline? At least, that’s what I’d like to think!

  2. Not bad at all!!!!!!Welcome to the Club!!!! dan and Madge Bursch…We do remember the “Good Days ” in Choma….

    On Tue, Apr 26, 2016 at 10:42 AM, Pieces of Peace wrote:

    > harrietbicksler posted: ” As I celebrate my birthday on primary election > day in Pennsylvania, in the middle of one of the oddest and most > frustrating presidential campaigns ever (in my memory, at least), there are > many things I could wish for, but I’ve limited myself to three ” >

  3. I tried to comment on your blog, but got blanked out twice. It was more fleshed out, but basically I was saying I like what you wrote and feel many of the same things myself. You are a good example of “aging gracefully” although, I won’t call you “spry” yet

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Sorry for the problems with the comments, Karen. It should be more user friendly! Thanks for being careful with your word choice as I age. I do hope to live long and well enough to some day qualify as “spry,” however!

  4. Good column. I’m a couple of years behind you, but echo many of your wishes — although I’m not so sure about the one vote on person ideal. Its greatest benefit is that it limits the power of megalomaniacs, but I’m not sure I trust the electorate all that far. A clever politician can sometimes play too easily on our fears and our anger. Democracy remains the best ideal, but not because we can always trust the people ….

    • Daryl, your sister made essentially the same point about one person/one vote, and I understand its limitations. I just think we’ve gotten way beyond what may have been intended at the beginning, and there is some truth to the charges that the system is broken.

  5. Pingback: Three More Birthday Wishes – Pieces of Peace

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