It’s my pleasure to know a special 90-year old man named Carl. We go to the same church and everyone I know who’s met him loves and admires Carl. He decided to follow Jesus as a very young man and spent his life loving God and others well.
Last November Carl marked his 90th birthday by jumping out of an airplane. I watched him reach this milestone and wondered what I could learn from his experience so I recently sat down with him to ask some questions.
Carl’s answers were full of wisdom. Here are 10 things I learned from him:
10 Life Lessons from Carl:
Lesson 1: Grab life by the tail
Me: “Why did you jump out of an airplane on your birthday?”
Carl: “Turning 90 is a real achievement and jumping out of an airplane is the most exciting way I could think of to celebrate.”
Lesson 2: Find a Purpose
Me: “What choices helped you live a long healthy life?”
Carl: “The sense of mission I’ve had since I was about 12 helped me stay active. God blessed me with good health so I try to exercise and eat healthy foods. I want to stay strong to live out my mission.”
Lesson 3: Trust God
Me: What is your mission?
Carl: “To become as much like Jesus as I can. The more I attempt to do that the more satisfaction I feel and the more help I can be to others. It’s more fun to give and serve than to get and have others serve you. Living like Jesus leads to the best life here and beyond the grave!”
*Note::Carl served 45 years as pastor then pastor and professional counselor. He still provides pastoral counseling services and has gone on 50 foreign mission trips to 9 different countries (most since retiring at age 65!).
Lesson 4: Happiness is a choice.
Me: “How do you stay happy?”
Carl: “It’s not easy with the challenges of age. I try to focus on what I enjoy each day, keep my sense of purpose and stay involved with other people.
Life is too short to make ourselves. miserable with anger, jealousy and hatred.
Lesson 5: Joy comes from love and work
Me: “What gave you the greatest satisfaction over the course of your life?”
Carl: “Although we had struggles, my good marriage of more than 60 years. I look at young people raising their families today and think they’re the luckiest people in the world. My work as a pastor and counselor also gave me tremendous satisfaction.”
Lesson 6: Take time to enjoy life.
Me: “What do you know now that was hard to understand when you were younger?”
Carl: “Earlier I think I focused too much on what I wanted to achieve instead of taking time to enjoy my journey, It’s good to smell the roses and enjoy day-to-day life.”
Lesson 7: Parents, teachers and church workers make a difference.
Me: “What person influenced you most? “
Carl: “Perhaps my parents. My father taught us to do our best at everything we undertook. My mother was compassionate and gave me a heart for the underdog. There are so many others: the Christian school teacher I had for the first 7 years of my education who walked 2 ½ miles early each morning to start the stove to heat our school room, people I met in several congregations. Their lives are what impacted me.”
Lesson 8: God makes a way through hardships
Me: “How did you overcome the worst thing(s) that ever happened to you?”
Carl: “One sad event was when my wife developed dementia and suffered 9 years before she died. It helped that my grief got spread out over that time and that she was out of our home for the last two years. The support of friends and family helped tremendously.
Another hard event was the depression I suffered when I was 40. It helped to go to therapy and look at everything in my life. That prompted me to go to graduate school and become a counselor which has been my work ever since.”
Lesson 9: Keep a big-picture perspective
Me: “What have you learned about getting through life’s rough spots?”
Carl: “It may sound like I’ve lived a story book life but that’s definitely not the case. My answers may not have been so positive in earlier times. At one point I took a fresh look at the Bible and rejected some positions taken by our church. I got criticized and even rejected by some friends and acquaintances. It really hurt at the time but now it’s just a bump in the road.
Even tough times don’t last forever. Eventually things get better or we learn to adapt and make the best of life.”
Lesson 10: Choose an optimistic model
Me: “What Bible personality do you most look forward to meeting in Heaven?”
Carl:. “Besides Jesus, Paul. He devoted himself so fully to the Lord’s work, endured so much suffering and persecution yet maintained an optimistic attitude. What a person to learn from!”
I really appreciate Carl’s answers. They helped me and I’m glad I took the time to learn from him.
I hope you learned something by reading Carl’s comments. Which lesson had meaning for you? Please let me and others know by responding in the comment section below.
Interviewing Carl reminded me of a cast-iron trivet that hung on the wall in my childhood home. It said Ve Get Too Soon Oldt Undt Too Late Schmart.
If you know someone who’s lived a lot of life consider taking them to lunch to glean their life lessons. Doing so could help you get smart before you get old!