That old hat

Originally published in the Dickinson County News

The Iowa Great Lakes Rotary Club has a new tradition of passing around this crazy “Old Age Combat Hat.”

The original idea was to honor the “young at heart” among us. The tradition began last summer with the “laid back old timers” passing it around and adding pin or two while in possession.

The hat, when purchased, claimed to be an old age survival kit as well, so it features such things as miracle hair dye, wrinkle remover, denture cleanser and a compass for those times one gets lost.

More notable, however, are the items that have been added by local Rotarians.

A variety of Rotary-themed pins are sprinkled amongst items from various sports clubs – because sports keep you young. There are pins supporting the fight against breast cancer, the U.S. Army Veterans and even the Kiwanis. There’s an angel pin, a Rudolph pin, and a stamp featuring Dr. Seuss characters. There’s a rainbow pin that reminds us to follow our dreams, and my favorite is one that reads “Insurance agents need love too!”

It was a bit tongue in cheek last week when a fellow Rotarian handed the Old Age hat to me – one of the youngest members of the organization. Regardless, its point is one for all ages: Youth is a state of mind.

“I refuse to surrender,” has been screen printed upon the hat. Now, that’s not just a refusal to grow old – it’s a statement for all of us when life’s most difficult times come down on us. Stay young and live life with the heart of youth.

I’ve met some teenagers who are older than I am, and I’ve met some senior citizens who are younger.

When it became my turn to add a pin to the hat, I pondered it quite a while… I ended up choosing a tiny pin featuring a blue flower. I picked it because the love of life’s simple pleasures – including some of nature’s simplest miracles – will keep us all young at heart.

Next week, I’ll give up the inspirational hat and place it on the head of another young-at-heart Rotarian.

But its message will stick with me long afterwards. It doesn’t take a hat to remember that being young at heart makes life more fun. I hope you too “refuse to surrender.”

Stay young.