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By Jack McCall

You’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words?”

I was in Hattiesburg, Miss., a few years back, speaking at a Hattiesburg Chamber of Commerce event. It was a stellar evening, first class in every way. After my after-dinner speech, I found the audience members to be warm and engaging. As the crowd began to disperse, I was approached by a gentleman who wore a big, friendly smile. I was immediately captivated by his appearance.

He was a big, barrel-chested guy whose grey, thinning hair gave his age away. (Or so I thought.) His trim waistline was the first clue to his being in great physical shape. Then I noticed the muscles in his upper arms straining at the material in his tailored, navy blazer. As we talked, I was fascinated by his youthful-looking skin. The skin on his face and hands was pink and supple like the skin of a child.

I had to ask, “What is the secret to your being in such great shape?”

Across the Miles
Jack McCall

As he chuckled, he replied with his own question. “Son, how old do you think I am?”

Now that was a loaded question. “How should I answer?” I thought. I guessed him to be in his late 60s – early 70s at the most, so I hedged my guess.

“66!” I said.

He could not hide his pleasure, or his beaming smile. He lowered his voice as he admitted, “Son, I’m 82 years old.”

“Naw!” I protested. “You can’t be 82!”

“You can’t be!” I said.

“Every day of it!” he countered.

“Ok, I’ve got to know. What’s your secret?” I asked.

“Well, for about the last 25 years,” he began, “I rise at 5 o’clock in the morning, and the first thing I do is walk 2.4 miles. (He told how fast he covered the distance, but I don’t remember the exact time. I do remember I was impressed with his walking speed.) “Then”, he continued, “I work out on 10 different weight machines, shower, eat breakfast and I’m at my office by 7:15. I’ve done it six days a week for over 25 years.”

I must say I was impressed. And I came away from my encounter with this remarkable gentleman asking myself a question. Would it be worth that investment of time and energy to look and feel like you were 60 when, in fact, you were 80? I could see him blowing right on by 90 and not missing a step.

My encounter with this remarkable Southern gentleman was, in a word, unforgettable.

Fast forward to two summers ago. My wife, Kathy, and I were on our first Alaskan cruise. Kathy, who was a teenybopper during the British Music Invasion of the 1960s, is a devoted Beatles fan. To her delight, one of the nightly shows on the ship featured a “Beatles” band. These guys were pretty good. I declare, one of them was the spitting image of John Lennon, and of course, the bass player was left-handed.

We saw the first show and the second show and the final show.

After the first show, which was performed in a small bar setting, we realized seating would be limited as more cruisers heard about the band. So we showed up early for the second show. When we arrived 30 minutes before show time, we were the second couple in line.

Being the Southern man I am, I struck up a conversation with the couple at the front of the line. The man, who was about 5-foot-9 in height, was of medium build and neatly dressed. His hair was conservatively cut and completely grey. I guessed him to have a 28-inch waist. He was not overly muscular but very fit. I suspected he was a few years younger than me (I was 65 at the time.)

As we enjoyed casual conversation I eventually got around to the question I had been wanting to ask.

“What is your secret for staying in such great physical shape?

He almost blushed.

“Ahh, I don’t know,” he said.

“No, I really want to know,” I persisted.

“Oh, I do 100 push-ups a day”, he admitted.

I could only shake my head. One hundred push-ups a day.

He finally got around to telling me his age. He was 72.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” So is an example.

I suppose two examples are worth 2,000 words.

Take better care of yourself in 2020.