Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lessons from a Venerable Old Gentleman


One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 is to be more patient and attentive to my dear wife Marcie. Here’s an experience that helped me understand why that is so important.

We were rushing down a narrow road on a sunny Sunday morning. Marcie had taken longer to get ready than usual, and with her arthritis, she requires a little extra time to get to the car. I was intent on making up the time as we left for church.

In Central Florida we often must slow down to accommodate our senior citizens. But when an old timer stepped onto the highway directly ahead of us that morning, it irritated me.

His grey suit was rather worn and tattered and his gait was a bit stiff, but he held his head high. His air of authority left me no choice but to hit the brakes.

“I wish this old fellow realized we’re in a hurry,” I blurted.

“Honey, just be patient,” Marcie counseled.

He walked across the first lane, then halted squarely in the middle of the road, fully erect. A car from the other direction was also forced to stop.

“The nerve of this character!” I said. “He acts like he owns the place. Now he’s got the whole road blocked.”

He looked back over his shoulder. Our gaze followed his to see his partner was a few yards behind him, limping slowly and with great effort.

“Look, he’s stopping traffic so she can cross safely,” my wife observed. “What a sweet, caring gentleman.”

Looking more closely, we discovered why she was hobbling.

I saw she had no foot on her right leg, just a stump. “Oh my gracious, she’s walking on a stump!”

It took several minutes for her to pass in front of us. Only when she was safe did he leave his post in the middle of the road. Then they continued on their way, side by side.

Watching them together, my impatience dissipated and my heart melted at this amazing example of devotion and commitment.

But now let me share with you the rest of the story.

The venerable old gentleman was a sand hill crane. Around here, we see these birds frequently and virtually always in pairs.

That’s because sand hill cranes mate for life. They are fiercely protective of their partners. They care for each other even when their coats are not as shiny and their bodies not as perfect as they once were. They do not abandon companionships that become dated or difficult or inconvenient. They remain loyal to the end.

This gentleman’s example of commitment and compassion and selflessness is one that all of us would do well to emulate. In our culture of throwaway relationships, it’s reassuring to be reminded by a so-called “lesser” specie that, even through thick and thin, marriages can last a lifetime — perhaps an eternity.

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