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Gary Horton: Without a vision the people perish

Posted: August 7, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 7, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Eighty-three year old Sam Danny walks slowly away from the table outside the coffee shop toward the Ralphs, where he will do his morning shopping. Sam doesn’t move as well as he did in years past.

He used a walker a few years ago after a heart operation, but with the help of some coffee shop friends he recovered and is now fully back under his own power. Nowadays, Sam walks with a slow, yet determined, gait.

Halfway to the store, Sam steps off the curb and veers into the parking lot.

"Where you going?" I call out. Sam points to an errant shopping cart left carelessly in the traffic lane. "I’ve got to get this thing out of the way!"

And Sam grabs that wayward shopping cart and slowly, determinedly, returns it back safely to the sidewalk.

Sam isn’t the type of guy to expect or take much help from folks. Sam sees his role to do his part, to keep things going for all around him.

Others sharing his chronological stature or some of his medical concerns might think the world owes them a living, or that they’ve somehow earned the right to give up trying their best in life. Not Sam.

It’s a motivating thing that each morning Sam arrives at the coffee shop early and sets up tables inside the shop, preparing for the dozens of friends who’ll soon be stopping by with a "Hi" or "Hey" or "What’s the good word?"

After the sun rises and warms things up, Sam heads outside, again arranging tables and chairs to accommodate the expanding outside contingent. Eighty-three-year-old Sam with the bad knee and recovered heart acts a perfect gentleman.

Sam is surrounded by guys and gals in their 60s, 70s and 80s hoofing it down to Starbucks each morning for what’s become a time-honored ritual for starting off their days.

Some walk, some jog, some ride bikes, one guy pulls up in a walker, and a few of the younger ones drive. Those who drive seem to prefer sporty convertibles.

I recall, some 50 years back, that folks then in their 60s and 70s — let along 80s — generally weren’t nearly so alive. They smoked more, they drank more, some didn’t even know what exercise was, and I suspect their vision for what life could or should be after 50 was far less than that of many folks today.

Those we see each morning at the Starbucks aren’t just united in caffeine addiction; they’re also united in "living addiction." They have a view for what their lives can be, should be, and will continue to be — which many other folks either never developed or for various reasons have lost.

Certainly health plays a part in proscribing our horizons, but vision and attitude may play the stronger roll in actually determining health and vitality.

"What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve" — and long-lived vitality isn’t an exception to that principle.

Retired Bob sits across the table from Sam most mornings. Bob goes out socially most nights of the week. I suspect Bob knows more women now than I knew in all the days of my youth.

Bob worked hard for his retirement and today enjoys the considerable fruits of a well-planned, purposeful life. Bob isn’t slowing down one bit. Weekends find him at Carpinteria or on bike rides here or there — and finding Bob is a little like finding a Waldo surrounded by admiring women.

I don’t know John and Howard’s ages. I know that John is up there, but I still catch the crazy guy jogging the Arroyo Park Drive hill, sometimes even carrying bags of groceries when he’s feeling particularly frisky.

By the time John and Howard hit the coffee shop at 7:15 a.m., they’ve already read both The Signal and the L.A. Times and know more about what’s going on two hours into their day than most will learn all week.

Life around these so-called "seniors" is vibrant stuff and is itself a great vision for our own future. Carrie and I are recalibrating what we can and should do over the future decades coming our way, much motivated by our Starbucks friends.

Sam and Bob and John and Howard and all the rest of the coffee cohort don’t stop — and won’t stop, and will never give up on life because they have a vision of living that overcomes the inertia of time that would otherwise grind against them.

Vision is a powerful life force to those with the discipline to follow it.

A popular Old Testament Bible verse reads, "Without a vision the people perish." That’s true both societally as well as personally.

Imagining clearly all we can enjoy and accomplish through all our years — and visioning ourselves productive, caring, and joyful all our days is a potent force that is self-actualizing.

A popular scene from the fabulous movie "Shawshank Redemption" has Tim Robbins’ character reflecting, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." An honest assessment shows there’s really only those two choices. Stalling, or delaying, or buying time are all wasted days.

Sam will stay busy living until his last day, far, far from today. "I’m not a quitter." he constantly reminds us. Sam means it to his core, and he speaks the sentiment of the entire Starbucks cohort.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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