Charles E. Richardson

Annual ‘check up from the neck up’

During this Lenten season it’s customary for many people in Christian denominations to give up something for 40 days. I was never much into that, but I do use the time to do a three step deep dive into self. I think every now and again it’s useful to look inside and see what’s there, just to make sure I’m still on course.

It’s not that I don’t give something up, it’s just that I don’t give it up for religious reasons. I give something up as a matter of inner discipline. I know it’s supposed to, in some religious denominations, signify Christ's suffering and death on the cross and his resurrection on the third day. But, for me to give up, say, snicker-doodles, for 40 days isn’t in the same universe, so why play like that.

I start by asking myself, if I’m treating me right? We all lean toward self destruction. We work too hard and at times stress ourselves out. As an old friend told me last week, all the self-imposed importance of what we place on what we do disappears in an instant, “when you wake up in the hospital looking at your cardiologist.”

Some of us smoke, drink or party too much and sleep too little. We let society invade our secret places with its drama-infused moment of crisis. We are fire housed with more information than we can possibly absorb. And while we are more connected than at any time in human history, we’ve never been more prone to isolation — stuck looking at screens rather than people.

So I check myself for symptoms of system overload and withdrawal. Those signs are different from down time which we all need. My Fitbit tells me if I’m getting enough rest. However, my body is a better indicator.

Within this first question I ask: Have I been exercising? How do I generally feel? And what’s changed since the last system check? And, how many books have I read? For me the answers are, I’ve been exercising more but not up to my spring goals yet; I generally feel good, but I’m noticing some changes in eyesight and hearing.

The next question I ask is, how do I treat others? Do I listen intently? Do I focus on what they are really saying or am I just waiting to get a word in? If I can help, do I? Do I make time for others? Have I remained humble or turned dogmatic?

I don’t want to become a crotchety old man who is liable to spout off at any time just because age gives me license. I want to give everyone the respect they deserve.

The third and last question I ask during this season is how do I want to be treated? As you get older doubts start to creep in about your capabilities. On a basketball court, they take one look at my gray hair and they instantly think they can take advantage of the “old man.” As long as I can, I want them to regret that thought. I can still set a mean screen and have a pretty accurate mid-range jump shot. At about 230 lbs, I can clear out enough inside space as well.

That’s the physical side, but what about the mental side? I’m not some piece of porcelain, but I want to be treated not too much differently than I was 30 years ago — with respect. No kid gloves required, though. I do want people to respect the one thing we all have so little of: Time.

Understand that if you call to ask me at the last minute to be part of a program you’ve planned, the answer is going to be a Southern no. I operate under the premise that “an emergency on your part is not an emergency on my part.”

People are good at what they do and make it look easy, not always because they are gifted, but because they prepare. Most times it’s a heavy dose of both.

And finally I try to stay focused all year on the subject of a very simple phrase that brings me perfect peace: He has risen. Hallelujah.