A trip of a lifetime lay ahead of me. I was going half way around the world to Laos and Thailand, to a world I knew little about. For weeks prior to my departure, I busied myself preparing for this adventure; studying about the countries, getting my immunizations. Anxiety and excitement surged over me all at the same time. Packing became a major ordeal. After all, I take 3 weeks to pack for a long week end and THIS was 3 weeks halfway around the world! I’ll take my grey slacks (they won’t show the dirt); I’ll pack my black slacks too (they’ll show even less dirt). Don’t forget my Khakis (for dress-up), throw in a skirt or two, some hiking shoes, some walking shoes, and oh, don’t forget the sandals. Find a place to shove in the hand sanitizer, a head lamp (for those nighttime treks to the latrine…I think that’s just an “uppity” word for outhouse), some sunscreen, insect repellent, a trekking pole, some Kleenex and baby wipes (I’d heard stories about those “no toilet tissue” places, and I figured, if these work for babies, they would be just fine for me). Don’t forget the long undies for the cold nights in the mountain villages, and the short undies for the hot humid days in town. Remember to pack the allergy pills, the Tylenol, the cold tablets, the Band-Aids, the lip balm, the Dramamine, the sinus tablets and anything else a good pharmacy could put in a suitcase.
Whoa! What was I doing? Did I have a senior moment and forget that I was no longer 40? Had dementia arrived early and caused me to forget that my knees had trouble walking up and down the stairs, much less thinking about trekking up and down steep mountain paths in a tropical forest? Had I forgotten that once around the mall caused me to pant like a dog that had just played “catch the Frisbee” for the last 2 hours? What was I thinking? What could I (a 60 plus-zer) do to help the less fortunate in Laos and Thailand? Was I crazy to even consider this adventure?
After a little thought, I realized I couldn’t be too crazy since Fred and Mary Visser were going on this trip with me and they were older than me! (just a wee bit), but I couldn’t help wondering what we had to offer.
Upon arrival in Laos, I was taken aback by the humidity, the pungent smells, the street markets and the congestion. I was anxious to get to the mountains to meet the villagers. Several days were spent visiting villages, examining mountainside farming, observing improved rice production and the success of animal fattening. I watched as children swarmed around us, looking as though they had never seen grey haired people before. I listened as they joyously shouted out their lessons in unison as Fred pointed to items on the blackboard. Young Laotian CRWRC staff members eagerly shared their field progress while awaiting our words of encouragement. I could see in their eyes, we were making a difference. They were thrilled that the “seniors” had come to spend time with them.
The following week we met up with Bev Abma, Angela Boss of FRB and some fellow “senior” travelers in Thailand. They had just spent time in Cambodia, North Korea and Timor and were anxious to share their experiences with us. Our fellow senior travelers relayed their story of how they connected with the women in Cambodia. In addition, 2 travelers from India joined us as we visited the ECHO operations around Chaing Mai. They walked behind us as we climbed gingerly up the steep mountainside, through creek beds and over rocks, pushing our trekking poles deep into the ground to stabilize ourselves. We could tell that they were more accustomed to this type of “walk” then we were (at least we couldn’t hear them panting and gasping for air like we were), but we were determined to keep up with these 40 somethings! When our ECHO partner, Rick Burnette, realized 60% of our group was over 60, he remarked that we had set a new bar for the groups he had taken to his farms. I think he was just amazed that we survived that treacherous mountain trail and were still able to communicate without requesting oxygen. It was delightful sharing experiences and learning from one another throughout the week. As our time together was coming to an end, VL, one of our Indian travelers said, “I have much to learn from my “sweet sixties”….
“Sweet Sixties”…that’s what we became known as. (Little did he know most of us were over 70) As I pondered our new name I began to realize what we “seniors” had to offer… encouragement, insight, wisdom, prayer, love, acknowledgement, a sense of community, determination…most of these we were able to give through time worn efforts. Others could see that we were truly interested in their success and improved lifestyle. They also seemed happy for us to share our experiences with them. So did I have a “senior moment”, forgetting I was no longer 40? Maybe so, but I also learned that no matter how old we are, we have something to offer.
Why not check Foods Resource Bank’s website at www.foodsresourcebank.org and see how you can find what you have to offer. I think there may still be some openings on some upcoming trips…whether you’re a “senior” or a junior, I’m sure the Lord would have something special planned for just you.
by Judy Dayton,
Byron Center MI growing project