Have you ever considered sharing your wisdom? Do you feel you have learned something during your life that is worth sharing?

Consider this short story about two people learning from each other. Do you see yourself, like them, feeling you already know enough?

The flight home had been long with several delays. All the passengers were concerned about getting sick. The plane was packed with people, and every time someone coughed everyone felt uneasy.

A 28-year-old man and 68-year-old gentleman ended up sitting next to each other. Their conversation during the flight was brief, and at the end of the three-hour trip they were ready to get off.

Once on the tarmac they waited an extra 45 minutes before making their way to the terminal. There they were met by health care professionals who directed them into a large room. They were told that the virus outbreak required them to be quarantined and they would spend the next two weeks in isolation.

Rooms at a make-shift hotel were set aside and two passengers would need to share one room. The young man and the gentleman ended up becoming roommates and immediately felt disconnected from the outside world.

The young man had a smartphone allowing him to update his social status and stay connected to his friends and family. The gentleman had a flip phone which could only make calls. The first day was spent looking at the news and discussing the virus.

The young man complained to his friends about being stranded and how unfair the whole process was. He also followed the politics of the situation and was critical of the response to the virus. He wondered why he could not just go home.

The gentleman was more patient and read a book he had brought along.

On the second morning, while the young man was visiting with his friends and complaining about his situation, his phone accidentally slipped out of his hand as he was gesturing his frustrations. He was standing on the balcony at the time and his phone fell three floors and landed on the concrete below. It shattered into many pieces. This was almost the last straw for him.

The young man found himself a prisoner with an old guy who was not very talkative. He contemplated borrowing the gentleman’s phone to talk to his friends. This would have worked well except the gentleman did not have a charger for his phone and after the second day it was dead also.

There was no television in their room and their only contact with the outside world was a radio that only picked up AM stations and a person who brought food twice a day and left it outside their door.

On the fourth day of their isolation, the old gentleman struck up a conversation with the young man. They talked about where he was from and what he did. The young man was single and had a girlfriend but was not in any hurry to get married or have children. He was wrapped up in his career and focused on making money. He expressed his frustrations with things going on in the world which were beyond his ability to control or change.

The young man was also frustrated with the government and its inability to fix this problem. It seemed that no one was watching out for him and his concerns. He was on his way home from a vacation in Europe which was cut short by the pandemic. He felt he had been cheated out of this experience.

The young man also talked about the next trip he was planning to take and the fun things he planned to do. He told the gentleman that the older generation was probably responsible for all these problems. What did they know about the future and how to find happiness? They were the rich elite class in his mind. For the rest of the day the young man talked about his life and his perception of the world.

Day five was uneventful, with little news and no change.

On the sixth day the young man was still bored and frustrated. He decided to ask his roommate about his life. The gentleman said his wife had died two years earlier from cancer. They had four children and 10 grandchildren. He had been on a trip overseas to visit a relative who he had not seen in 30 years.

The young man asked him if he was not frustrated by the events happening around him. He asked the gentleman if he felt cheated in his life and mad at the world or God because his wife had died.

After a few minutes the gentleman began to tell his story. Unlike the young man who had entered college right out of high school and then traveled the world before taking a high-paying job, the gentleman had a different experience.

The older man graduated from high school and then was drafted into the army. He spent the next three years in Vietnam. Those were hard years for him. He came back home and worked his way through college through the GI bill. He met his wife shortly after he returned from the war and they were married soon after. By the time he was the young man’s age he was in the working world with a wife and three little children.

In his early 30s, the gentleman purchased a business. He had borrowed a large amount of money and was very leveraged when the 1980s hit and interest rates soared up to 18%. By the end of the 1980s, he found himself broke and out of business.

At 40 years old, the gentleman started his business life over again. He opened an auto parts store and had been reasonably successful. One of his kids was in the business with him, and the gentleman still came into work almost every day. His trip overseas was something he had wanted to do his entire life. He had anticipated going with his wife but that had not worked out.

The young man found the gentleman’s story interesting and waited to hear what else he had to say.

After a long pause, the gentleman told the young man he had learned a few lessons over the years that might be useful to him. First, there are things that happen in life that you have no control over. You can complain or moan and groan, but it does you no good. Most people are not concerned about the injustices you experience.

Second, how you react to the world around you is the true measure of who you are. There will always be things beyond your control that act upon you. Your reaction is entirely your decision and you cannot blame it on someone else or things happening around you.

Third, there will always be a tomorrow different from yesterday. The world is constantly changing, and if you want to be successful in life you will need to be able to change also.

Fourth, you should invest a significant portion of your time and energy into things of lasting value. The gentleman said he would never regret the time he spent with his wife and family. His children and grandchildren were a legacy that could not be purchased with money or replaced with other possessions. If he was looking for true happiness, it would not be found in competing with the world for fame and glory. It would be found at home.

After another long pause the gentleman walked out to the balcony and sat down on a chair. The young man was left alone, thinking about the gentleman’s advice.

Over the remaining days the two roommates talked on and off. They spent many hours thinking about their lives and making plans for the next few weeks. Their time in quarantine reminded them of the things that were most important.

The gentleman was happy he was able to share some of his wisdom. He hoped the young man would be able to find a little more happiness in his life.


Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at plans@bobdunaway.com.

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