April 1, 2022 • Third Third Journal
In my work with the De Pree Center’s Third Third Initiative, I’m always on the lookout for what I call “third third wisdom.” Usually, this wisdom comes from folks who are in the third third of life and whose life experience has helped them to be wise about many things, including the third third of life.
A few months ago, I came upon an article from the Christianity Today website. Its title caught my attention: “How Older People Can Overcome Stereotypes and Flourish in Transition.” Older people! Flourish! That’s in the center of my target.
The article was filled with what I call “third third wisdom.” The author, Dr. Hilda R. Davis, draws from her extensive work experience, educational background, and personal life to encourage those of us in the third third to “Be renewed” and “Be well.” A couple paragraphs of this fine article stood out to me:
God calls us to create at every age. Too often older adults are stuffed into outdated stereotypes that don’t reflect who we are as individuals or what God has given us the power to do. Ageism is one of those stereotypes that place older adults in the “not being able to learn new things” box.
God continues to call older adults to do a new thing–to burst myths about aging and to be willing to transform our own lives and our communities. Dr. Eva Jessye— the first black woman to receive international distinction as a professional choral conductor– was one of the residents where I worked. She began teaching music at the University of Michigan in her 80’s. She taught me that our passion will lead us to opportunities to make a difference regardless of our age.
Amen and Amen!
After reading this article, I sent an email to Dr. Davis, thanking her for her writing and asking if we might talk sometime. She responded graciously and we had a delightful Zoom conversation. Later, she served as an advisor to one of our third third research projects. Dr. Davis, who invited me to call her Hilda, talked about what we refer to as the third third of life from such a well-informed and distinctive perspective. With a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Religion, Health, and Psychology, as well as experience as an educator, counselor, pastor, government official, communications specialist, and entrepreneur, Hilda can speak to issues of aging with creativity, insight, and authority. Plus, she enriched my understanding of the third third of life by sharing some of her experiences as a Black woman.
Hilda has written a fascinating book called Live Healthy and Be Well: Create an Action Plan. Though she told me she wrote this book mainly for women, I bought it and read it. So much of this book is relevant, not just to women, but to human beings in general, especially folks like me who are in the third third of life and want to “live healthy and be well.”
You can learn more about Hilda and her work from her website: Creativity in Wellness. I am grateful for this new partner, wise counselor, and sister in Christ, and I commend her and her work to you.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.