Gift of Years (The) Hardcover
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Top Customer Reviews
The six copies of the book were purcahsed by my wife as a present for each of our six children on the celebration of our 50th wedding annivesary. Our children are all 40+ yrs old!!!
I have not read it yet but have received late night snippets from my wife as she read herself to sleep while reading it for the third time. Seemed to reflect and add to our own Spirituality. We are part of an Ignatian Outreach Team.
One disappointment the American cover is not as cheerful as the English edition but I could not see enough volumes of the English edition on sale at the time of purchase!!!! Purchased from/or through Amazon.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Chittister, a Benedictine sister, is 70 years old. She suggests that she may actually be too young to write this book because life still has lessons left to offer. She "reserves the right to revise this edition when she is ninety." Chittister views how we life at any age to be a choice. We are each given the gift of today. It is up to us what we do with it. She counters the idea that old age need be a time of isolation and loneliness and uselessness. Rather, it can be a time of great connectedness and joy and purpose. It is a time for looking back, not with the pain of regret for opportunities lost, but with understanding of how the life that has been lived has meaning for who we are right now and what our future holds.
Chittister maintains that senior citizens have so much to offer to the world at large. Their wisdom and their stories and their experience are a great gift. They also have the time to get involved. Without the pressures of a 9-to-5 job or raising a family, they can volunteer more, make more of a difference. They have the chance to do all the things that they always wanted to do that there was never time for before. "Age does not forgive us our responsibility to give the world back to God a bit better than it was because we were here."
Of course, there are special challenges that come with the transition to later adulthood and Chittister does acknowledge that fact. It can be difficult to be older in a world that so values youth. It can be hard to reclaim a sense of self with everything that defined that self is now gone. It can be a struggle to cope with physical ailments and disabilities. As Chittister states, however, "there is no such thing as not coping. . . The only issue is whether we will choose to cope well or poorly." We do have a choice. We can adjust our way of thinking and our way of being or we can give up.
Mostly, though, being older brings freedom. "We are free now to choose the way we live in the world, the way we relate to the world around us, the attitudes we take to life, the meaning we get out of it, the gifts we put into it. And all of them can change." "The Gift of Years" is a gift in itself. It provides the opportunity to reflect on what it means to grow older and provides hope for a time of life that holds great promise.
We are indeed fortunate that Chittister decided not to postpone the writing of The Gift of Years, for it is full of the grace of decades of thought and meditation. It is written not only for those of us who are among the old, but for everyone: we are all growing older, and all of us may eventually undertake the search for meaning and fulfillment that lies at the deepest heart of the aging process.
The Gift of Years is a full basket of rich gifts: forty-plus short essays on the many dimensions of eldering, "its purpose and its challenges, its struggles and its surprises." Each essay begins with words of wisdom from someone who has considered the meaning of growing old, then tells a brief story or an anecdote, offers a reflection, and invites us to participate in a meditation on the burden and blessing of the years.
In "Time," for instance, Chittister quotes Pablo Picasso: "It takes a long time to become young." There is an anecdote about a potter named Thomas, who at eighty had lived long enough "to release the beginner in himself again and again." There are reflections: time ages things; time deepens things; time ripens things. And then there is the meditation. The burden of years is allowing time to "hang heavy on my hands," Chittister writes; a blessing of years is to "realize what an important and lively time this final period is."
Chittister's essays are rich in variety, nimble in thought, and resonantly prophetic in voice. She writes about regret, relationships, religion; about fulfillment and freedom; about limitations. This is a book to be kept beside a favorite chair and savored slowly, thoughtfully--no gulping here--and to be reread as we move into "the twilight time," the last years in which we must find the strength to trust others, bear weakness well, and surrender to acceptance. These are the years, she says, quoting E.M. Forster, when we must be "willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully is not just for elders. It is for all those who are searching for ways to learn, grow, and make the best of our gifts in deeply troubled times.
by Susan Wittig Albert
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
Now that she has passed her seventieth birthday, Chittister explores what it means to grow older gracefully. To do this she has written short (3-5 pages each) meditations on forty themes like regret, ageism, adjustment, letting go, sadness, solitude, success, etc. She begins each chapter with a pithy aphorism from a broad range of poets and prophets, both ancient and modern -- Plato and Picasso, Browning and Byron, Emily Dickinson and Jung. After the brief meditation, she summarizes the chapter by observing both the "burden" and the "blessing" of the theme under consideration. On the idea of the future, for example, she writes, "The burden of these years is to assume that the future is already over. A blessing of these years is to give another whole meaning to what it is to be alive, to be ourselves, to be full of life. Our own life."
Which is to say that much of my future of growing older is what I intentionally choose to make it. We all face the inexorable biology of the body and the deterioration of our physical condition. But we also enjoy the possibilities of the "eternity of the spirit" and the frame of mind we choose to follow. One can choose to age passively or actively, says Chittister. That is wisdom worth pondering, especially when you consider that the average retirement age is about sixty-four, which means the average American also has another twenty years to live and to love. Having worked long and hard to make a living, Chittister advises that our older years offer us the chance to make a life.
The book reads like a series of sermonettes. We get the "what" but not the "how." And I think the author assumes her audience shares her values and opportunities.
She seems to have a solid grip on the spiritual dynamics of growing old. But she writes about areas where her lack of experience seems obvious: dealing with health issues (especially the health care system), finding meaningful work after retirement, and making friends when you don't have time or opportunity to develop a shared history.
Not everyone finds meaning in helping others. Some people are better suited to working and donating to charities rather than taking a hands-on role in the charities. Some people want to relax and be door-greeters at Wal-Mart or (as she suggests) teachers' aides at a local school (not an easy job to get). But a lot of people will find those roles meaninngless, degrading and more stressful than the high-powered jobs they're denied.
A good book if you've got strong spiritual values, a solid support system, most of your health and financial sufficiency. If you're 80 years old and still running marathons between visits to the grandchildren, you'd probably love this book.