What SELECT Men can be Thankful For
By Rev Michael O. Stewart, PhD, SELECT National Participant Advisory Board
Being retired, it is possible to watch some television during the day. I just finished watching pictures of the bridge collapse in the Twin Cities and a presentation on the Oprah show by Al Gore about global warming. Both were very depressing but filled with some hope and thankfulness.
I know that men in the SELECT study are motivated to provide a legacy of hope for their sons and grandsons. Most of us were thankful at our enrollment that we had not been diagnosed with prostate cancer. We should be thankful for the multivitamin supplements we receive, the annual PSA test and DRE. At social events at my study site, I am thankful for getting to know other men and seeing some I knew before.
In my “working” days, I was a type “A” person serving as a military officer, chief financial officer and hospital chaplain. It went with my personality and the territory. For many years I had heard and even on occasion told others to take time to “smell the roses.” My adjustment to retirement seven years ago went pretty smoothly, partly because I worked part time and continued to volunteer. However, it took longer for my psyche and body to adjust. As usual God had to take a 2x4 to get my attention in the form of three surgeries in the past five years. I am now able to say “no” to requests and take time to reflect, ponder, appreciate and say thanks for my blessings. Something that was perfunctory in prior years. My former wife used to tell me to “enjoy this season of your life.” I did not initially practice what she preached.
Several years ago my cousins and I were discussing common relatives. The discussion turned to the religious upbringing of their grandmother who was my mother’s sister. They assumed that both sisters had been raised as Episcopalians since that was the faith tradition of my mother. Actually, both women were raised as Quakers by their parents. In reality, their grandmother had married a Roman Catholic and converted. I realized in one generation this was an incorrect assumption. My point is that I saw how much family history could be lost in one generation. As a result I have been encouraged and plan to record some family history for subsequent generations. For that I am thankful, and my story may spark someone else to do likewise.
Giving thanks is personal, but there are some common threads among us. Taking time to be thankful and to smell the roses needs to be a conscious effort and action. As the sun falls from its noon day zenith in this season of our respective lives, we need to probably eliminate our “busy-ness” and procrastination so we can take time to fully live a thankful life and smell those roses.
One might argue each of us should do more acts of little kindnesses. I would put forward that men generally are more likely in their lives to do acts of kindness rather than take time for meaningful and heartfelt thanksgiving.
After spending 11 years as a hospital emergency and trauma room chaplain, there is not much I have not seen or experienced. People ask me how I could do this; I say it is a special gift. It is the gift of a type of devotion not to be confused with organized religion. I have no monopoly on faith. Most men have some form of spirituality. There is no right or wrong spirituality. The saying goes “there are no atheists in foxholes.” I am not sure that is literally true but the figurative point is well taken. Spirituality is in the eye of the beholder; each person can have his own spirituality.
Thanksgiving, kindness and hope are all part of spirituality. I maintain that spirituality ought to become more important to each of us as we age. All of us have experienced parents, relatives and friends who have lost some or all of the physical or mental faculties in later life. Therefore I urge, even exhort, each of us to take time to be thankful while we can and take time to smell the roses. Peace.
P.S. Remember to keep taking your supplements, and be thankful you did.