Am I Living Small?

Recently I was invited to serve on a certain board of directors in Fairfield. I almost fell off my chair. Not in my wildest dreams would it have occurred to me that I might be considered for this board. I have done some public speaking over the last year for this group; I do feel quite passionate about the direction this organization is taking. But a board member?

 My first thoughts were: Are they mad? Why would they want someone who is eighty-one to serve on what is a vibrant, important board, consisting mostly of members younger than my children? This can’t be happening!

 “You don’t have to decide now,” I was told gently. “Just tell me that you are even willing to consider it.”

 Stunned, I nodded my head. “Of course, I will consider it. I am so honored to be asked.”

 But, at the same time, in my head I could hear the following sentences: You are too old. Your board-serving days are long over. (There was a time when I served on a number of boards.) As a single senior you are supposed to be learning to play bridge and thinking about retirement communities. This is not for you. You will fall asleep at the evening meetings.

 I came home dazed but determined to think about it. This was an amazing opportunity, I knew. What would this mean for my life?

 I plunked myself down at my computer where I am accustomed to thinking, and there, lying beside my Mac, were pieces of yellow, lined paper containing quotes from a recent sermon delivered by the empowering pastor, Joel Osteen.

On top was a single piece of paper, which read: “I wouldn’t be alive unless there was something greater in my future.”

 The other bits were my notes from Osteen’s recent talk about “living small.”

 Was that it? Was I “living small?”  Was I afraid to live a wide-open, spacious life? “Limited thinking leads to living in a small way,” Osteen tells us. “Don’t get stuck and stay there.”  Whatever our age, whatever our situation in life we are to dream new dreams and seek new horizons, he admonishes us. We are to “live large!”

 According to Osteen, “God”—the Universe--whatever works for you—“wants to enlarge us, wants us to gain new ground, and we have to make room for that new ground in our thinking.”

 The idea here is not to compulsively bite off more than we can chew, but simply to remain open to expansion, to new possibilities in our lives.

 Was I stuck? No longer able to think of living a larger life? Was I caught in some age-determined stereotype that had snuck up on me like a creepy, red rash whose itch held me fast?

 Living in a “small environment,” Osteen tells us, gets inside of us and begins to control how we think about ourselves. We need to combat this diminishment and instead, encourage ourselves, be willing to seize the next opportunity and be unafraid to spread our wings no matter how frazzled those feathers appear to us. We are called to live an “overcoming and expanded life.”

 There are no accidents. The notes beside my computer, hastily scrawled one Sunday a couple of weeks ago while Osteen was speaking, made my decision for me.

 I opened my email, typed in the address, and sent: “YES!”

Written for Unleash Potential by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at