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Age and the current political climate

Before the recent opioid drug crisis dampened the growth of U.S. life expectancy, Americans were living an average of 1.5 to 2 years longer with each passing decade.

Today, the average American lives about 78.5 years which is roughly 8 years longer than the average American lived in 1970.

Longer lifespans have prompted retirement and other benefit markers to inch up along with life expectancy.

When I was young, my sister and I had a self-appointed adopted grandmother. This lady was a widow from our church whom my parents drove to evening services when darkness prevented her from driving.

She insisted on being called “Grannie.” My sister and I indulged her mainly because we didn’t want to face her wrath for non-compliance.

Grannie was the most opinionated woman I had ever met. She had a comment – usually negative – on virtually any topic, from the length of my pant leg to the length of the preacher’s sermon.

Our family never invited Grannie to our house because Mom couldn’t bear the thought of her housekeeping critiques.

Grannie was difficult to get along with. I wonder how much more challenging she would have been if she had lived five or ten years longer. Probably a lot.

For most people, filters come down with age. Some people get kinder as they age; most seem to get more cantankerous. They don’t as much. They’ll tear up a speech on national television immediately after it was given…by the president of the United States.

It’s well-accepted that our politics are more polarizing than ever. I wonder if age has anything to do with it.

The aforementioned speech ripper, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, turns 80 this month. Most of the major Democrat candidates for president are septuagenarians: Elizabeth Warren (70), Joe Biden (77), Bernie Sanders (78) and Mike Bloomberg (78). Their debates are a circus of squabbles.

Of course, President Donald Trump, 73, is prone to name-calling (“Sleepy Joe,” “Mini Mike”) and other childish behaviors.

His sardonic commentary both on Twitter and at the bully pulpit is the stuff previously reserved for pundits and comedians. It’s not generally conducive for healthy policymaking, or raising kids.

Years of experience can bring wisdom, and many of Trump’s presidential actions have been good for our country (Supreme Court appointees, tax cuts, regulatory reform, etc.). Our beloved President Ronald Reagan served a majority of his two terms while in his seventies.

But the circle of life has a way of returning aged adults to childish forms as their days wind down. Humans start in strollers and end wheelchairs. We start and end with feeding and bathing assistance.

Which begs the question…

The U.S. Constitution provides age minimums for the Presidency (35), the Senate (30) and Congress (25). Do we also need age maximums?

Many corporate boards have age limits. They usually are set at 72 or 75 according to a Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

At age 70, U.S. citizens must start collecting Social Security. At age 70.5, retirement accountholders must start taking distributions.

Given the demographic trends of our society, age discrimination is a legitimate concern. We must prevent it at all cost.

But it shouldn’t stop us from asking, “What are appropriate age limits for federal officeholders and would it help our political climate if we had them?”


Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at

A Christmas column montage

IMG_3623In my years pontificating in this space, I have penned a handful of Christmas-themed columns. Here are some of my favorite lines. Nothing quite like an author quoting himself!

I wrote once about a “real, live Clark Griswold” who perennially turned his quarter-acre lot on “an overlooked street in an underdeveloped part of town” into a magical holiday light display.

Jimmy Sartain included a nativity scene in his spread. During my visit, I noticed something was missing.

“Some kids were having one of those scavenger hunts,” Sartain said. “Somebody needed a baby Jesus, I guess.”

“Particularly somebody who steals one,” I wrote.

My cleverness continued, “When you turn into the neighborhood, a sign will say ‘No Outlet.’ But don’t believe it. There are actually many outlets, all being put to very good use.”

Another year I wrote about my favorite Christmas comedy, Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I called the piece “Herdmans, Herdsmen, and Me.”

Imogene Herdman was “as unlikely a carrier of the baby Jesus as Mary was herself,” I wrote. “Therein lies the story’s glory: God acting in the lives of ordinary people, the kind of people who get dental floss for Christmas.”

(My six-year-old had asked me that year, “What do you want for Christmas, Dad? Maybe some dental floss.”)

After the pageant, Imogene “returns alone to a darkened stage…In tears, she clings to the swaddled savior of the world.”

“From virgin birth to shepherd witnesses to a daring midnight escape…nothing is as you or I would have drawn it up. If a saving, gracing Creator can break through to Herdmans and herdsmen alike, just maybe he can break through to me.”

In “Both Rich and Poor Find Place at Christ’s Birth,” I wrote about lowly shepherds and lofty kings who visited the Savior baby born to humble folks.

“Was there really no room in the inn, or was there just no room for them in the inn?” I asked.

“At Christmas and in Christendom, rich and poor bow down together. They worship together in an upside-down kingdom. First are last. Poor are rich. What’s on the inside counts.”

In “Kids Can’t Not Believe” I write about how eager kids are to hold on to the magical, even an elf on the shelf. “Since the world is bigger than them, they assume there’s a world beyond them.”

It’s a lesson for us adults. That year, I was “struck by two miraculous births: Jesus, born to a virgin, and John, born to a barren woman. Whether we’re before our prime and scared, or past our prime and sad, the message is the same: God is in the impossible. Believe!”

Finally, in “Bottling the Spirit” I wrote about the season of miracles.

“You find a unique gift at a department store. You find an affordable one at a boutique. You think about families who have too little and people who have no families. You consider trees with no gifts and homes with no trees.

“You hit a movie, maybe a love story, and the popcorn tastes better than you remember. You stay through the credits. You attend a Christmas Eve service and hear the town’s best voice belt O Holy Night. You close your eyes and it’s Mariah to your untrained ears. You go to dinner afterward. You leave 35%.

“You recall the baby who, for the joy set before him, endured a tortuous death, rejected its shame and returned from where he came to prepare a place for us. Joy – to the world and back.”


Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Read more Christmas columns at

With teenagers, keep calm and parent on

Interacting with a teenager is a little like dealing with a two-year-old. The fuller his tummy is, the less likely the conversation will end in a blowup.

And the more sleep he’s gotten, the more likely you’ll make it through without hearing “Why?” fifteen zillion times. Still, somehow, he’ll think you’re the one who asks too many questions.

“You ask too many questions,” my teenager informed me recently with exasperation in his voice.

Evidently, my one inquiry, “How are you doing?” put him over the top.

I understood. I also used to cringe at questions from my folks.

Like him, I probably ended many conversations with a huffy, “May I be excused?” (teenspeak for “I’m done talking”).

Nevertheless, I tried to explain to him that dialogue builds relationships.

Parents are, by nature, in the past. Trends come back in style because kids don’t want to be like their outdated parents. My attire likely looks more like my grandfather’s than my father’s.

A piece of trivia came up at dinner recently: “A hotel was built in Hawaii in 1919.”

“Wasn’t that when you were born, Dad?” one son asked in a line of joking that – ironically – never gets old.

“No, he was 1914,” my eldest son chimed in.

Some joking about my age is more innocent, such as the time my 7-year-old daughter asked me with all seriousness, “Dad, what year were you born? Do you remember?”

The older I get, the more birthdays mean, and the more I want to embellish them.

Recently, my wife and I were planning a family birthday outing for our soon-to-be fifteen-year-old.

“Why?!?” the teenager asked, channeling his inner toddler.

“We want to celebrate with you,” I said.

“I want to celebrate with my friends,” he retorted, in no uncertain terms.

Anyone who has lived with hormones knows they never stay constant. It wasn’t much later that he backtracked, “Well, maybe we can go out to dinner or something.”

At that point his stomach was full and his frontal lobe was developed just enough to remember that he will indeed get hungry again.

It’s uncanny how much we all can turn, for the better, when we just let a little out. I’m not the same person after I do. He’s not the same person after he does.

When teenagers are diffusing and refuting, it’s important to keep calm and parent on, the Brits might say. Things only become a big deal when you make them a big deal.

Letting a little rope out also helps.

“How late did you stay up?” I asked when I picked him up the morning after a night at a friend’s house.

“Guess,” he invited.

“Five a.m.” I conjectured.

With wide eyes he asked, “How did you know?”

I was a teenager once, I explained.

I, too, had inquisitive parents. Then, I became one.

I know he’ll soon get annoyed again by questions from his old man. I also know he would get more alarmed if I quit asking them.


Kevin Thompson writes for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at

Making contentment less elusive

Last summer, our family took a boat ride on Lake LBJ. Our seven-year-old son surveyed the lake houses lining the shore. He noticed some of them had swimming pools.

“Hey, Dad,” he said. “Why do those houses need a pool when they have the lake?”

Perceptive question. My reply had something to do with the desire to swim in a more controlled environment. He seemed to get it. Sort of.

Finding contentment is a great challenge of our day. Global and social media combine to constantly show us what we’re missing.

Wanting what others have is not a modern dilemma. Thousands of years ago, Moses etched a commandment on a stone tablet: “Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17 from The Message)

The temptation to covet is not just reserved for things. Experiences and opportunities are also at play.

There has been talk at our house lately about Disney World. We’ve had a few friends visit the Magic Kingdom.

“Is Disney World in Texas?” one brother asked.

“No, it’s in Boston,” his seven-year-old sister informed him.

The farther, the better, as far as I’m concerned!

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard did not set out to build a $200 million a year company when he started his outdoor clothing and gear company in the early 1970s. He simply wanted to create higher quality rock climbing apparel and equipment than what was available at the time.

The billionaire still speaks of a simplicity paradox. He encourages people to have fewer possessions of better quality that last longer. It’s not a scarcity mindset, he makes clear. It’s making space for more true living.

“The more you know, the less you need,” said Chouinard on National Public Radio’s “How I Built This.”

An avid fly fisherman, Chouinard recently decided to forego the thousands of fly shapes, colors and patterns that exist today.

“I’ve limited myself to one type of fly for the past year, and I’ve caught more fish than I’ve ever caught in my life. You can replace the hundreds of thousands of fly options with knowledge and technique.”

“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life because everything pulls you to be more and more complex. If we decide to go to a more simple life, it’s not going to be an impoverished life. It’s going to be really rich.”

My nine-year-old got his new baseball uniform last month. Like his brothers before him, he inscribed Philippians 4:13 on his hat: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

While many young believers reference this verse in terms of hitting home runs and scoring last second shots, the Apostle Paul was actually talking about being content in all situations, particularly hard ones.

Contentment is about perspective, as demonstrated in the following quote:

“I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.”

Finally, a Greek proverb summarizes why just a little bit more is often not enough:

“Nothing will content a man who is not content with little.”

Follow Kevin Thompson at

Holy Week and the Final Four

This Holy Week, an underdog Jesuit Catholic Loyola University arrives in San Antonio for college basketball’s Final Four.

Even the Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, didn’t pick them to advance this far. Oh, she of little faith.

During Holy Week, Christians ponder the remarkable events that led to Jesus’ resurrection, and the clash of faith and doubt it tips off.

Shortly before Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on the back of a virgin colt, he told a story of a widow who cried out to a judge for justice. The judge finally granted it because of the woman’s persistent faith. Jesus finished the story with a question:

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Regardless of your religious perspective, you have more faith than you think.

Every car you pass on a two-lane highway is a testament to your faith in your fellow drivers.

You believe you will be paid after a week or two of work.

You trust your bank will return the money you deposit at exactly the time you request it.

You are confident the grocery will take that money in exchange for food to cook.

And, if you don’t feel like cooking, you have faith the chef or burger flipper will, more or less, prepare your meal as your grandma would, without any extraneous “ingredients.”

When people break faith, we all pay a price. In our litigious culture, people turn to courts to resolve conflicts they could often avoid by following through on their commitments. As a result, lawyers paper contracts to protect clients from the prospect of broken faith.

This process comes at a cost. A friend calls it a “sin index,” referring to the increased prices we pay because people don’t always act in good faith.

So, in some areas we have faith. In others, we lack it. Jesus’ closest followers experienced this tension, even Simon whom Jesus called a rock (i.e., “Peter”).

After Judas took a bag of silver coins to betray Jesus, Peter took to anonymity to deny him.

“I’m telling you, I don’t know the man!” he told a servant girl in the temple courtyard.

Only hours before Peter had asserted to Jesus, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never disown you!”

But then the sword-wielding disciple went silent and a rooster crowed in his place, just as Jesus had predicted.

The resurrected Christ eventually reinstated Peter, and Jesus ultimately followed through on his promise to build his church on that rock.

In Peter, many of us find a piece of ourselves. Moments of conviction combined with episodes of disillusion.

Like the father of the demon-possessed boy in the gospel of Mark, chapter 9, we go to God with our need, but we also ask timidly as the father did, “If you can…”

“‘If you can?’” Jesus scoffs with his own disbelief in faith’s frailty. His is a loving pity.

“Everything is possible for him who believes,” he continues.

At the end, the sick boy’s father captures the paradox in every believer’s heart: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Perhaps that is Sister Jean’s Holy Week prayer for Loyola’s ballers. Go Ramblers!


Kevin Thompson writes regularly for The Boerne Star. Read more at


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