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Over 60 and Getting Younger: April 8, 2011

Involvement?

(Editor’s Note: Stanley Greenberg is on vacation this week. This week’s column is an encore presentation of a piece originally published on March 11, 2005.)

While I was walking on the treadmill at the clubhouse of the condominium where I live, I started speaking to a fellow condo resident. Having a conversation while you are walking on the machine is a great boon, because it takes your mind off the boring step after step drudgery.

I asked him how long he had lived at the condominium. I had never seen him before in the 23 years that I have lived there. I was quite sure he was a newcomer. I was flabbergasted when he said, “I have been living here for 23 years!”

“Where have you been hiding?” I questioned.

“I believe in keeping a low profile and not getting involved in any politics or community stuff,” he said.

“Aren’t you interested in any of the issues that come up and don’t you have an opinion on some of them?” was my quick retort. “We also have had some great parties.”

“Nah, that only gets you in trouble with your neighbors. Really, what can only one person accomplish in a crowd of so many people?”

We uttered pleasant “So longs” and left the gym separately. I thought about my newfound neighbor’s way of life. I was active – on the board of directors, played tennis, participated in social affairs. Who was right? 

“To do or not to do?” That is always our choice.

Last Sunday I went to the funeral of a former president of my condominium. He had served for four turbulent years and had accomplished much. His active citizenship was praised and the eulogies commended the fact that wherever he lived he gave of himself to his neighbors. He always tried to better his community. Good and bad happens to those who become leaders.

Again, “What is the right path?”

Active, enthusiastic participation makes you friends and admirers but along with it comes the detractors. Hiding in your living room is safe and no criticism is showered on you but you have to swallow your pride when you see a wrong or a mistake.

No universal conclusion will be drawn here today.

Shakespeare said it best, “To be or not to be? That is the question.”