The Existence of Will

My elder’s hard-won wisdom echoes from long past turmoil.

Elders have a huge capacity in their hearts to listen to what we “younger” ones are going through and have a unique perspective: Just as there is a light in the darkness, there is darkness in the light.

One of Buddha’s teachings asays, “The mind is by nature radiant. It’s shining. It is because of visiting forces that we suffer.” These forces are what most call vices: greed, anger, lust and envy. They’re not inherently who we are, but they will visit.

Wise elders in retirement living don’t evaluate who has the most or who is the most popular. Instead, it’s who is not suffering.

When we open the door to visitors this holiday season, we realize the antithesis of greed is hospitality, and, in a season of giving, the opposite of envy is kindness.

As my wise elders open their doors this season, they worry little about what people think about their apartment or their car. They don’t drop names and casually mention their cabin on Gull Lake. For the most part, they just listen—because after going through all the suffering that comes from attaching oneself to pride and greed, it is just fun to listen and be full of wonder about others and their lives.

In some traditions, there is a teaching to invite a visitor in for a meal: “Oh, there you are, have a cup of tea. Sit.” While the not so wise only share their own woes, the wise elders proclaim, “Don’t let it have the run of the house.”

Awareness this strong can only come from years of suffering, which built self-awareness. The room we create is built on love, built on a sense of community and knowing we are not alone.

Margaret Wachholz is the campus marketing director at Woodbury Senior Living. In her column, she shares observations and wisdom about aging and senior living in our community.