Age as Accomplishment

80 year-old model Wang Deshun struts a runway in 2015. 
80 year-old model Wang Deshun struts a runway in 2015. 

An American church group was visiting Haiti. The Haitian church leaders were leading the opening introductions to facilitate the bonding of these two groups who had never met before, so they asked everyone to go around the room and introduce themselves by saying their name and their age.

The Americans were surprised by that second question. We are not used to being asked our age, at least after childhood. In fact, some people consider it rude to ask someone their age. But the Americans recognized that they were in Haiti and that the question was asked in kindness so they went along with it.

When it came time for one retired person to introduce herself, she gave her name then her age - seventy-six years old. The Haitian group broke into applause.

Now the Americans were really surprised. But in the laughter and conversation that followed, the two groups learned something about each other. The Haitians learned that American adults aren’t used to being asked their age in public and we certainly are not used to getting applause.

The Americans learned that the Haitians were not used to meeting someone who was seventy-six years old. The average life expectancy in Haiti is 63. In the United States it is 79. “Turning seventy-six is a a great accomplishment!” they said. “So of course we are clapping.”

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