Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Who knows what first?

 You’re right. That’s a strange title that can be read different ways. I’ll explain.

It’s said that “Knowledge is power,” and I believe it. Knowing stuff gives a certain control over life situations. Events don’t so often creep up on you unawares. You can plan and strategize how you will face problems or react to conditions. Knowing what’s going on or about to happen places you above the ignorant and uniformed. Especially if you’re the first to know. Then you get to be the one to tell your friends and neighbors.

It's been interesting to see how this phenomenon works out in the retirement community. We’re a close community, somewhat set apart from the wider world around us. But there’s a lot going on around here, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of it. So knowing stuff becomes important. And knowing it first seems to matter.

What time will the electricity be off on the fifth floor? Why didn’t the yoga class meet today? Why don’t we have vespers on Sunday anymore? Is so-and-so on vacation; where did they go; when will they be home? Why is the coffee machine in the dining room not working? Who? What? Why? Where? When? Knowing matters.

The One-with-the-Answers matters. It can become a silly game. Some people always seem to have the answers to whatever question (not always the right answers) and they delight in sharing their insights. Why do these people irritate me? I guess it’s more me than them, hooking into the game. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in junior high school. Or even in grade school with the nerdy little kid who responds to every question the teacher asks with waving hand and, “I know! I know! Ask me, Teacher!”

I especially hate it when I have an important piece of information and I generously impart it, only to hear, “Oh, I already knew that.” So I decide to keep quiet in the future, but I never manage to do that.

Not everybody around here plays this game. But from time to time, I find myself hooked. Shouldn’t retired people be more mature? Shouldn’t I be more mature? Who cares who-knows-what-first?

I’m writing about this because when I notice some unhealthy attitude, I need to confess it. And then I need to laugh. Especially at myself.

Of course, there is another side to the need for information around here. These are the scary questions: Who is moving from independent-living to the health care center? For whom did the ambulance come last night? Who fell? Who had a stroke? And, of course, who died in the night? This knowledge goes beyond the who-knows-what-first game.

These are our neighbors and friends, people who live next to us. In many cases they are people we’ve come to love. With knowledge comes sorrow. And although in a retirement community these events are common, the news is none-the-less jarring each time around.

And, of course, there’s the aspect of the inevitable. With each illness and loss, it seems that our turn is coming closer. It’s a sobering thought and sometimes one that’s hard to face. But it’s something that I know will happen sooner or later.

It’s something we all know, but the frequency of these events in this place makes the knowing more poignant.

Well, here’s something else I know. Job suffered horrible illnesses and the deaths of his children. Yet he found the courage to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.”

This I know.

In the meantime (which can be very mean), I will grow in grace toward my more knowledgeable friends. Especially the Ones with the Answers.

And I will laugh more. Especially at myself.

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