There are times when we can only approach meaning in a round-about way, just as there are times when you can only really see something by not looking at it directly but catching it, as they say, out of the corner of your eye.

In just that manner, we can only come to an understanding, at times, by 'looking' at something out of the corner of our mind.

Take, for instance, the word use. It is such a common word that we all assume that we know what it means but it is very hard to define it. “The act or practice of employing something” requires all of 36 letters to define a 3 letter verb. Defining the verb form of the word is not much easier: “To carry out a purpose or action by means of” requires 33 letters.

And neither of these definitions are terribly clear, are they? But my favorite definition is the one that uses the word to define itself: “the ability or power to use something”.

So let's look at the word out of the corner of our mind: use refers to purpose. If something has a use it has a purpose. If you use something, you apply it to the purpose for which it was intended or created.

Have you ever been told or have you ever thought that you were useless? That simply means that you did not appear to the person speaking – or to yourself – to have a purpose.

It is a powerful temptation for those of us who are growing older to wonder at times if we are of any use to anyone. It sometimes seems that we have served our purpose and that we no longer have anything of value to offer ourselves or anyone else.

Recently I overheard a woman in her seventies commenting of being “subjected to the indignities of maturity.” This is surely one of the worst of those indignities.

This viewpoint is, unfortunately, only reinforced and exacerbated by a society and a culture that shuts its elder members away as though “uselessness” were not only a fact but a contagion.

It is neither. The elderly – and those of us who are “sliding into old” (to use the title of a blog on aging) – are not useless. We still have much – wisdom, experience, humor, resilience, determination, and creative intelligence – to offer.

A diamond is merely a lump of coal that has been compacted by tremendous pressure for a long period of time, had its rough edges knocked off by a master diamond cutter, and been polished to a high sheen that catches whatever light there is and reflects it back. It is not the stone itself that has value; it is the pressure, the time, the faceting, and the polishing that give that unprepossessing stone its beauty and its value.

So it is with the older generation. Perhaps it is our purpose – our use – as we approach our sixth, seventh, eighth or nineth decade, to offer those blessings to a society that doesn't seem to respect, value, or even want them.

Author's Bio: 

I am a Baby Boomer myself and a newbie internet entrepreneur focusing on the Baby Boomer generation because I spent sixteen years serving as pastor in United Methodist congregations all over Kansas. Those congregations were made up primarily of Baby Boomer or older members, so I have developed some expertise with the Baby Boomer generation. I am now on leave of absence and living in Atchison, Ks. with my thirty-year-old son and two cats. I also help my daughter, also living in Atchison, with three sons, ages 9, 7, and 22 months, while their father is in Afghanistan. My blogs are found at