They live in three different countries but they all seem to have one thing in common: apparently, no one ever told them about retirement. And so they’ve simply continued to serve others, irrespective of their age.
France’s oldest physician, for instance, Dr. Christian Chenay, is not only still conducting tele-medicine calls with patients, but he continues to make weekly trips to a retirement home. His wife is terrified that he will bring the coronavirus home and “she is right,” he admits. And at the age of 98, he admits that he probably should reduce his activity level for a lot of reasons.
But in thinking about those folks in the retirement home, says the good doctor, “I can’t just abandon them in the midst of an epidemic. They wouldn’t be able to manage on their own.” So Dr. Chenay goes anyway, though he will concede that he is moving more slowly than before.
Across the channel in England, Captain Tom Moore will be knighted by the queen for his fundraising efforts after being nominated by the prime minister for that honor. Captain Tom originally set out to raise one thousand pounds for the National Health Service by walking 100 laps of the 82 foot loop in his garden before reaching his 100th birthday.
Like an English Energizer bunny, however, Captain Tom—promoted to colonel and soon to be Sir Thomas– just kept on going and to date, he has raised more than forty million dollars (or 32 million pounds) contributed by over a million and a half supporters. He’s not only inspired the whole country, says the prime minister, but he’s provided “a beacon of light through the fog of the coronavirus.”
And in the United States, the country’s leading expert in biomedicine, Dr. Francis Collins, was surprised in the midst of all of his non-stop work on the pandemic to learn that he is this year’s recipient of the Templeton Prize, an annual award which totals $1.3 million. The longest serving director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Collins is known not only for his groundbreaking research in genetics, but also for his intellectual arguments that reconcile God and science.
“I think of God as the greatest scientist,” he has said, noting that the “elegance and wisdom of God’s creation” is “truly exhilarating.” When a scientist discovers something no human knew before, but God did, that is both “an occasion for scientific excitement and, for a believer, also an occasion for worship.”
Of course at the age of 70, Dr. Collins is still but a youngster compared to his colleagues overseas. But he nonetheless has demonstrated that there is no age limit on serving God and serving others. After all, Abraham was 75 before he even received his call from God and Moses was 80 before he set out on his work for the Lord. Caleb was 85 when he asked for the mountain, and the youngest of the twelve apostles of Jesus, John outlived them all.
Maybe that’s why the psalmist asked long ago that “even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation.” (Psalm 71.18) Later on the same book proclaims that “they will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92.14)
And if you could ever get them to stop long enough to do so, I have a feeling that Dr. Chenay, Sir Thomas, and Dr. Collins, would probably all say “Amen.”