They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
I say, who wants to be an old dog.
No matter how old you are, you can always start something new. Whether it’s learning how to draw, to play cribbage, or to cook a souffle. If you’re willing. Learning and being pliable are two of the things that keep us young.
My summer started with a friend inviting me to join his senior summer bowling league. Once I got passed that ‘senior’, I said why not.
Back in junior high school (over 40 years ago), I bowled on a local rec league. My greatest memories were accidentally wearing the lane’s bowling shoes to a school Christmas party (Red and gray striped shoes go with anything, right?) and having my elbow burned by a cigarette. Not the high points of my life.
It hasn’t gone as I expected.
When my team was picked, it was my friend, a man about our age, and a dear lady who, they say, is 86. How hard could this be?
Four weeks later, the best I can say is I have a great handicap. As Deloris would say, “At least he’s trying. Bless his soul.”
Yes, I’m being outbowled by an 86-year-old.
One of our opponents jabbed that I was sandbagging. Oh no, I’m trying very hard for every one of my very few pins.
Being a part of this summer league has reminded me of a few important life lessons.
1. Learning new things is difficult and takes time
You have to learn, or re-learn, the fundamentals. There are always steps one has to take to get good at anything.
2. Keeping a positive attitude is important
And hard. I finally roll the ball down the middle of the lane, hit the target pin, just to have two or three pins standing there sticking their tongues at me.
Or a personal favorite, bowl the first ball into the left gutter. Take a deep breath, pull my shoulders back, and hit the single pin on the right side. (A voice in the back says, “You got the hard one.”)
Am I being watched? You betcha. I would be watching someone, a grown man, expecting to see an eruption and probably have him disappear. But what if the guy comes back. Gets off the mat. Again and again. Isn’t that how we have to deal with life?
3. Don’t let others get you down
There will be others who are not having the same problems as you. My friend is a great bowler with an average of more than 70 pins more than mine. Geesh.
In fact, my average is the lowest in the league. Yes, behind the 86-year-old. (Which just happens to be the age of my mom.)
4. Being humbled sometimes is not a bad thing
This one is hard to swallow but is especially important. It isn’t just about me. Even when my game, let’s say, isn’t going the way I’d like, other people on my team and around me are doing well. I need to be able to celebrate that.
My having a bad game doesn’t label me. Doesn’t make me a loser, not as good as someone else, or worthless. (Ever felt that way?) It just means in this particular game I’m not doing so well.
Which brings me to the most important lesson.
5. There’s always next time
I keep returning for more punishment and humility because I know I can do better.
And isn’t that what makes our lives bearable? That we have hope. God has said He has a plan and He’s big enough to make it happen.
I didn’t have to go back for the second week, or the third, etc. But if I’m going to see the results of the work I’ve put in, I have to go back, put on the ‘stylish’ shoes, and roll the ball.
I’m getting better. But the best is yet to come.