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Published March 17. 2012 09:01AM

"I am a part of all that I have met," said Ulysses, returning home from his lengthy travels. He was attempting to describe his feelings to his wife about how the years weighed heavily on him and how his travels had changed him.

Poor Mrs. Ulysses didn't have a clue. She stayed home, watching the kids, keeping the home fires burning and wondering how her husband was. She seldom knew where he was, much less what he was doing.

Considering his lengthy absence from home, Ulysses had another thought. He was "matched with an aged wife." Apparently, he felt youthful and invigorated from his travels, but his wife had grown old and sedentary. Although they were just about the same age, Ulysses saw that his spouse looked weary and tired.

We can take a lesson from the Ulysses poem, written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It is definitely true that we are the product of our past. Our lives are changed by the experiences we have. If we move ourselves out into the world, meeting new people and having unique adventures almost daily, there is a spring in our step. We broaden our outlook and push ourselves physically and mentally.

If we plod along day by day, doing the same things and seeing the same people, we don't have a chance to grow and expand our view. We age beyond our years.

Now, dear reader, I hope you are not sitting there saying, "Dr. Smith, I can't afford to travel." I am not necessarily talking about traveling. I am talking about forcing yourself to change your everyday habits. I am talking about giving yourself a chance to find new interests. I am talking about meeting new folks and sharing ideas with them.

When my sisters and I were young, we sang as "The Wells Sisters." For years, our Mom dressed us alike, taught us harmony and choreography, and drove us all over the area so that we could sing for groups. Through those experiences, I grew comfortable with appearing in front of a crowd. That stood me in good stead when I had to give speeches as a Principal.

Going to the New Jersey shore for vacation each summer gave me some different skills. I learned to cook with strange pots and pans. The rental homes seldom had utensils that were efficient, so I learned to cook for a crowd with the bare minimum. To this day, I can make do in the kitchen with just about any utensil available.

When Tennyson wrote "Ulysses," he had a purpose - to speak for the ancient hero and tell a tale about how his life evolved. Another quote from the poem is "Death closes all; but something ere the end, some work of noble note, may yet be done." I think Ulysses was saying "You're never too old to learn."

At age almost-72, I learned a new craft - basket making. In the past few months, I have thoroughly enjoyed making four pine needle baskets - with pine needles collected from the ground here in our development. When people ask me "Why?" I say "Because I can." These baskets are currently my 'work of noble note.' Perhaps I shall also learn to make copper jewelry, too.

And finally, the last line of the poem is very special - "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Ulysses did not want to succumb to a normal life. He pushed himself to challenge the boundaries of the known world of his time. He worked hard at being an exceptional man. We should all be so dedicated.


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