John E. Bell received a new pacemaker on April 17. What makes Mr. Bells case so unusual is the fact that this is his second pacemaker. Doctors installed the first when he was 104. It failed after 11 years. So, at 115 years of age, Mr. Bell received a second, new lease on life! Dr. Ronald Berger, the cardiologist who implanted the device during surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, observed, He outlived the battery. He deserves to have a heartbeat for as long as the rest of his body allows him to. Ill be delighted to replace the pacemaker when hes 125.
How does a person live for 115 years? Mr. Bell offered this summary of his personal secret, I treat everybody like they should be treated. God said, Feed his sheep. Mr. Bells Baltimore neighbors know him well as the mayor of Oldtown, and they have honored him for his work among the poor and for his efforts at community cleanup. Except for a stroke a decade ago and the glaucoma that robbed him of sight in his left eye, Mr. Bell remains in good health.
Maybe John Bell is on to something. What do you think? Ironically, when a person removes self from the center of the universe, wonderful things usually happen to him/her and everyone else. The best way to take care of myself might be to develop a good case of self-forgetfulness.
Mr. Bell understands these familiar words of Jesus: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Interestingly enough, the sentiment behind the Golden Rule can be discovered in the teachings of every major world religion. The spiritual guides from across the ages would agree with Mr. Bells strategy for living.
Think for a moment. What would your part of the world look like, feel like, be like if you followed Mr. Bells prescription for living? Practice a little environment visualization and picture what a difference it would make if you treated everybody in your world like they should be treated, like you want to be treated.
On the job: How would your fellow employees respond to your decision to relate to them with respect, kindness, and civility. What might happen if you began really caring for everyone who works with you or for you?
At home: If you intentionally responded to your children and your mate with consistent, thoughtful concern and attention, what would result? Would your relationships improve, remain the same or deteriorate?
In your neighborhood: What if you gave your friends and neighbors what they needed? What if you thought of them before thinking of yourself? What might happen if you picked up garbage that wasnt yours? Mowed a lawn for someone recovering from an illness? Baked a cake for someone you didnt know?
Outside your neighborhood: Colin Powell just wrapped up the Presidents Summit for Americas Future. Organizers designed the entire event to motivate, encourage and call millions of Americans to volunteer in a national effort to touch, mentor and lift fifteen million at risk youth. What if you and I got involved? What if we volunteered at a Boys and Girls Club in an inner city neighborhood? What if we signed up to tutor and mentor two of these children who need our friendship?
You can extend the list into every corner of your life. You could even reach out beyond your current level of comfort. Dont you agree, this is a great what if exercise? But really now, what if everyone in our community lived with the 115 year old philosophy of John E. Bell? I believe it is fair to say all of us would be happier, healthier and much more human.
Heres the ultimate challenge for my life: to have it said of me, He deserves to have a heartbeat for as long as the rest of his body allows him to. How about you?
(Details for this essay were drawn from The Dallas Morning News, April 19, 1997, page 8A)