Reflections by Maxie Dunnam
It was hard to believe: 162-year sentence deemed excessive. That was the headline (Commercial Appeal, Dec. 16, 2022). The story was of a man, Courtney Anderson, who in 2020 was sentenced to 162 years in prison for repeated non-violent offenses. I found it difficult to believe the story, but it happened here in Memphis. Discovering that inhumane action on the part of a judge, District Attorney Steve Mulroy said, “It made me sick to my stomach when I saw what had occurred in this case.”
Anderson explained to the judge that his theft and fraud offenses were tied to a cocaine addiction. He has been sober for decades. Mulroy’s office and Anderson’s defense attorney worked with the court and his sentence was reduced to 15 years. He was released because he had already served the sentence. Now, at 54 years old Anderson is free.
I read that story and tried to put myself in Anderson’s place. On the beginning of this new year, I’m wondering what Anderson is going to do with the rest of his life? The larger question is, What are we going to do with the time we have?
Psalms 90, one of my favorites, deals with time and what we are doing with it. In the midst of it, there is this chunk of significant wisdom: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Keeping that in mind and anticipating this new year there are some thoughts I’ve had and decisions I’ve made.
I’m going to guard against giving in to procrastination. How much of the good and the beautiful, the exciting and the positive, never happens because we procrastinate to the point that the opportunity spends itself. William James, the distinguished psychologist, gave us some saving advice when he said, “Seek the first possible opportunity to act on every good resolution you make.” So, I’m going to resist the temptation to procrastinate.
Two, I’m not going to use age as an excuse. Being on Social Security doesn’t give us the right to be inconsiderate, nasty or cantankerous. And nowhere along the way is there an excuse for being less than the loving and lovable person God and others would have us be.
That’s one level of the problem of using growing old as an excuse. – Another level has to do with using age as an excuse for being less capable and less useful. I know that energy wanes with age. I know that there is a healthy slowing down that ought to be affirmed and celebrated, but I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about the common myth that says as we grow old, we automatically become less capable and useful.
At 94, Bertrand Russell led international peace drives; at 93, George Bernard Shaw wrote the play, Farfetched Fables at 91. At 89, Albert Schweitzer headed a hospital in Africa.
So, let’s not use growing old as an excuse not to be capable and useful.