On a coach, barrelling down the motorway to heathrow airport, i sat next to a woman who admired my copper-coloured silk shawl. this is my travelling shawl. it has accompanied me on many journeys, keeping me warm in overly air-conditioned planes, embracing me on long car trips into the countryside.
i responded to her words by telling her that i've had the shawl for at least 45 years. her career is as a quality manager. her eyes opened wide, amazed that anything could last 45 years! then i told her i had bought it in a charity shop, so, most likely it was older than 45 years. eyes opened even wider. this shawl is older than she is.
her next comment left me stunned. she asked "what would you tell younger people to guide their lives?" i paused before answering, breathing into my heart. this was a profound question, and deserved a considered answer. this is a question for an elder.
"take excellent care of your inner life," i responded. "your body will change and deteriorate. your inner self can only grow."
eyes opened even wider.
she then told me she has asked this question of only one other elder. this elder responded, "i would have travelled more."
we continued to chat as we near the airport. she said she would take my answer with her and share it with her hungarian family. as we parted she acknowledged, "in this country older people are not respected."
how would you answer that question?