Keeping the Spark

August 7, 2013

By Anna Perlini

They say you are old when you stop dreaming. Or even moving. Or a number of other paralyzing and static symptoms, depending on the life you lead.

When I was a child I remember bursting into tears thinking of my parents growing old. I loved them so much, and just the thought that one day they could lose some hair and get a few wrinkles was so hard for my child’s heart! In those days Peter Pan was my favorite movie, ha! Thinking about it now, something in me was dreading the aging process. Everything beautiful should never end or lose its spark.

As time went on, that particular fear slowly disappeared. I started accepting the physical aspect of aging, at least in my parents, who, by the way, have been aging very well. I can’t honestly say I’m excited about growing physically old—no, that would be a lie—but besides feeling stronger now than when I was in my twenties, I’m starting to realize that what I actually dread the most is becoming old inside: losing my enthusiasm, my ideals, and the desire to learn and move forward. I’ve seen this happening to others, especially to many belonging to my generation, the generation who in their young years fought for change and for a better world with such passion. For this reason I’m glad every time I have a chance to stretch and in some way start anew and remain young inside. I’m a hopeless idealist, that’s all.

One quote that has challenged and motivated me whenever I’ve been tempted to quit is: “Some people sell themselves out too cheap, they quit too soon! It is so easy to make excuses—legitimate, logical, reasonable, acceptable excuses why you couldn’t make it, why you shouldn’t be expected to make it—and in most cases most people will accept your excuses because most people don’t have faith either, and in excusing you they’re excusing themselves! But is God going to excuse you?”1

A few years ago I had the chance to participate in a school reunion, and I saw many of my school friends that I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. I had been a very good student, one of the tops in my high school, and a mover and leader in political and social causes. I was only 18 when I decided to dedicate my life to missionary and humanitarian causes, and I spent the next 38 years doing that, often in very difficult fields, never accumulating much for myself in terms of material goods. In contrast, quite a few of my friends are now accomplished professionals—doctors, lawyers, and businessmen.

At one point at the reunion, all eyes were on me and someone dared to ask the hot question: “But ... do you have any regrets? You were such a brilliant student—the best. We all admired you and thought you would become some great doctor or writer.”

I simply answered that, no, I didn’t have any of that sort of regret. I knew that I’d found and followed my calling, and that is the highest form of reward. My only regret is not to have given and helped others more, but I’m still working on that, ha!

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and almost unanimously exclaimed: “We are so glad to hear that and to know that you are still fighting for the ideals you gave up so much for! You can keep being a role model for us.”

I realized then that I wasn’t the only one who hates quitting. It’s not a matter of always appearing strong and never making mistakes. That is impossible anyway, and there are many falls along the way, and even times when one is forced to take a break. What I’m talking about is not quitting for good, but instead continuing to believe, to give, to move and change.

Someone said, “A heart that loves is a heart that never grows old.” That alone will ensure you’ll keep that spark in your eyes till the end of this earthly life. 

1 David Brandt Berg, originally published in August 1970.

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