She selected fifty-five men to be interviewed with as many different demographic characteristics as possible, to represent a diversity of ethnic backgrounds; careers, job experiences, and educational levels; ages, marital status, interests, and family origins; and beliefs about religion and spirituality.
You will be impressed by their intelligent approach to life, their honesty in replying to the questions, and the genuine emotions which were shared. As one might surmise, not all life experiences were pleasant or remembered fondly. Many had to survive poverty, prejudice, and a lack of education. Life was not always easy for them.
The questions were designed to create, not only for the men interviewed but for those reading their responses, a deeper consideration of one's inner thoughts. What do we each think about the chapter's question? Do I as reader share a common bond of experience or philosophy with the thoughts and feelings expressed? The questions can serve as a personal checklist and a reminder that time waits for no one.
Table of Contents
The Men Interviewed
1 The Greatest Accomplishments of My Life
2 Does Reflecting Mean Regretting?
3 The Likes and Dislikes of Aging
4 Life Enhancers of Men
5 How the World Can Be Changed
6 The Inevitable Ending of Life
7 Health Issues and Physical Capabilities
8 The Choices of Recreation and Mental Stimulation
9 The Continuation and Decline of Goal Making
10 Adam and Eve Relationships
11 The Religious/Spiritual Side of Life
12 Living Today and Living Tomorrow
13 Mentoring and the Role of Mentorship
14 Bottom Line Evaluations
The Greatest Accomplishments of My Life
How does one evaluate a life? This is not an easy question for any of us to consider. At reflective times, I believe that we each question ourselves on our individual lives, seeking answers and meaning for our existence. Our personal questionings often can revolve about the idea of accomplishment - Have I really accomplished any endeavors that I see as worthwhile? Has my life made a difference to my own family and circle of friends and to society as a whole? and Am I able to recognize my own accomplishments? For many of us it may be difficult to recognize what others may see as accomplishments, which may seem to us to be just a part of the daily living of our lives.
Choosing a first question to begin the interviews was not an easy task. By asking each man what he saw as the greatest accomplishments of his life, I felt we would immediately begin to peel away layers of programmed response and modesty that our culture may have piled on us. If we can't recognize our own worth, who will? A sense of personal knowingness is difficult to develop if one has been raised and educated in established values and responses, such as modesty and polite self-effacement. As I was growing up, very seldom if ever were the words "self-esteem" mentioned concerning the behavior of children and even of adults. It has taken the last ten or so years for me to recognize the value of healthy self-esteem. So often many may have heard as children expressions such as "Don't toot your own horn" and "Pride goeth before a fall," which certainly didn't promote a strong sense of self-esteem for those of us to whom they were directed.
With this first question of what each individual saw as the greatest things he had accomplished in living his life to his present age, we began the mutual journey of learning from each other. Invariably, laughter followed this question, and then began such comments as "I really haven't accomplished anything" or "My life hasn't been very interesting or exciting." In a great majority of the interviews, gentle prompting was needed to encourage the dialogue to begin.
It didn't take long for a sense of trust to develop on a one-to-one basis. In a way, as the interviewer, I was removing the layers of programmed response of each man while seeking to reveal behind the physical facade the real person willing to share his thoughts and feelings. For each of us, there are varying degrees of modesty that surface when we talk about ourselves to someone we know or to a stranger. I think at times we have found that it is even easier to share personal information with a stranger.
In reflecting over the responses to the first question, I learned that family is very important to those with wives and children, and many expressed this as their greatest accomplishment. Ranking in importance with families are jobs or careers, the attainment of an education or realization of personal goals, and overcoming whatever is seen as having been a limitation in the living of their lives. These men are diverse in backgrounds, heritage and experiences and their responses reflect their diversity. Responses have been separated into these categories.
Each man was asked how he wished to be identified. Some chose their own first names while others chose to use their profession as a name. Others chose a name identity. These are shown with their responses to each question, followed by their ages in parentheses. All comments attributed to each man are given as recorded in the vernacular language of the individual. At times transcriptions were a little difficult as voices have a tendency to be stronger at times and weaker at others. I have included responses from each one interviewed with this one question as I feel it is important to begin creating a mental picture of each man combining his experiences, personality, feelings and what is important to him so that a personal connection may be formed. I regret that it is not possible at times to give the response in entirety as many wonderful stories surfaced which in themselves might be a complete book. We begin with each man's summation of the greatest accomplishments of his life!
L.G. (71) "Probably raising a good family plus accepting God as my Savior and marrying a good woman."
Big Daddy (77) "I think the greatest accomplishments of my life are probably my family - my children, my wife, and my grandchildren."
Conrado (56) "My family, my kids. I am fifty-six now, and I believe my biggest accomplishment was raising a family and my business. But the biggest is being married thirty-three years. That is a big accomplishment."
Joe H. (63) "I think marrying my wife and having three wonderful children and six well-adjusted grandchildren are the greatest thing that I ever did."
Harry (72) "The greatest accomplishment I have had in my life was when I married my wife and we had four boys. We have been very fortunate in the fact that they have been very respectful to us. They are very concerned about our well-being and they are marvelous young men."
J. T. (82) "Probably talking my wife into marrying me."
Bud (56) "I would have to say, first of all my three children. I have two boys and one girl."
Roberto (63) "I look back, and I guess, the education of my children. They all went to Texas Tech University. Two have gotten their degrees and the others are in professions. Then, my participation in the growth of Lubbock since 1955."
Allan (63) "I would have to say it is my family. As far as I am concerned they have given me the greatest sense of accomplishment in my life."
Ray W. (58) "I would think that the greatest accomplishment of my life would be my family - acquiring a family, raising a family, being with a family."
Charley (57) "Probably my four children."
Herman (70) "Raising my kids."
Bob H. (70) "I haven't the foggiest idea. I guess it is having a successful marriage and a successful career."
Sam (76) "First of all, I would say raising a nice family. We had six children and I have had a very lovely and devoted wife. The children have, we think, turned out beautifully. The second is being a minister of the United Methodist Church for fifty-four years. There have been many satisfactions of observing the spiritual growth of individuals. Third, is developing good friendships wherever I have been. There is nothing more important in life outside of the family than friends."
Bill L. (64) "I would say that the greatest accomplishment is that I have successfully raised three children, along with help from my wife, and they are all highly successful at this day and time."
James W. (72) "I would have to say that it is my married life and the children. My business success has been marginal, but the Lord has always provided."
Attorney (75) "I would say my family and the life they live, my friends and the relationships with them, my church, and lastly I would say my law firm and practice and those attorneys and clients and my relationship with them."
Salesman (72) "I would say first would be my marriage because in turn that led me to a personal relationship with our Lord. I was not a Christian when we married. So I had what I call a life changing experience with our Lord that has influenced every aspect of my life."
Fritz (75) "Having a family - children, grandchildren and their children."
Joe D. (63) "The greatest accomplishment of my life is being a father, a family man and then secondly, I am very proud of my career as an airline pilot. It is exciting and interesting."
Marciano (61) "I think the fact that I have reared eleven children and still have eleven children is probably the biggest accomplishment I ever had."
Donald (65) "For me the greatest accomplishment is building a family. Certainly with my wife together. I think that is one of the biggest accomplishments anyone can do is to create a home and a home atmosphere."
John L. (83) "I think raising a very loving family. There are three children, eleven grandchildren, twenty-one great grandchildren and number twenty-two on the way and there is no friction anywhere in the family. I might give credit for all of that to my deceased wife. She was responsible for all that. She did one heck of a job."
Jim (65) "I feel that the greatest accomplishments are my children and the happy life I live with my wife. Quite frankly I have never done anything that particularly impressed me."
Morris (77) "I guess my family. I have four delightful children all as different as they could be. All are good Christians, good citizens, and no divorces. Amazing!"
John J. (79) "I think my marriage to my wife and the commitment we have had to each other. The fact that we come and go, and work hard and struggle hard - it has been a good marriage.
Blue Dolphin Publishing, 1999