The Fountain of Youth is a spring that is rumored to bring everlasting youth and/or life to those who bathe in or drink from its waters. From Herodotus to famed explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, the Fountain has been hunted for thousands of years. But why do so many seek it? Why would someone want to be forever young and does the Fountain truly exist?
I suppose that there are many reasons one may search out the Fountain of Youth. Some may want to drink from it for vain reasons, while some may just want to cling to a time in their lives where they felt truly alive. For many the best time of their lives was when they had little responsibility; where they didn’t worry about what bills to pay, what to make for supper, or whether or not the tires on the car would last another six months. They long for a simpler time when they played outside until the sun set, laughed and had sleep overs, and just hung out with friends. They look to hold on to those great experiences that they had a child or teen- those things that “young people” do but that as adults often are no longer done.
Where is the Fountain of Youth? Does it really exist? I believe it does. I’m also pretty certain I have found it. You see I found the Fountain of Youth in a very surprising place…. it was in me this entire time!
Are you scratching your head right about now asking what in the world is she talking about? If so I beg of you for just a minute more to explain myself. You see, I can look in the mirror and see the tell-tale signs of getting older. I see the gray hair that is springing up in between my blond tresses. I see the tiny wrinkles forming in the corners of my eyes. My back gets sore and my feet ache a little sooner than they used to. My memory isn’t as sharp as it was and I find myself feeling like time is beginning to just pass by too quickly. But even with these little signs telling me I’m getting older I also know that because I made life changing decision many years ago that the Fountain flows freely in and through me. Are you curious as to what my secret may be?
Many years ago my husband and I decided to be open to life. It has been one of the best decisions we have ever made. Not only has it been an honor to be a part of bringing life into the world, it has also been instrumental in keeping us young! We first became parents 20 years ago and yet just 3 months ago we had our 11th child. That is 20 years of child-bearing and rearing! Most people our age or those who started having children about the same time as us are about to have an empty house as their children move up and out. Not so with us. Even if we were to have no more children we are still looking at 18 more years of having children in our home. If our youngest child moves at that time we’ll have had children in our home for almost 40 years straight! I know to some that sounds exhausting but for me it is rejuvenating!
As I was thinking about what to write I made a list of all the things I am still doing today that I did 20 years ago with my first daughter. When I first began the list I wondered how many things I would have written down. Before long I had nearly 50 activities! I looked at the list and wondered how many others my age are still playing with playdoh, singing John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt, swinging on the swings at the park, having a dance or singing contest, dressing up their pets, having campfires in the backyard complete with tents and s’mores, dressing up as superheroes, playing doctor, wearing moustaches just because it’s Monday, dying Easter eggs, carving pumpkins at Halloween, and waiting on pins and needles for Santa to get here. I imagine that many of those my age have put away the slip-n-slide, haven’t read a bedtime story in a long time, played hide and seek, nor made a snow angel in years. And yet here I am 20 years later still getting to play every single day! It’s no wonder I feel so much younger than my years!
This isn’t to say that being open to life is all fun and games. It’s not. With a large number of children comes worries about finances, how we will feed them all, more medical problems, less time to myself, lots of noise, and many other stressors. Still, in the end God always provides for us, the love we have in our homes is staggering, and we get to play every day. The benefits clearly speak for themselves!
Many people chase down remedies to help their aging bodies not look so “old”. What these people do not understand is that we all are going to age and that is a good thing. To be honest it would just be weird to be ten years old forever. However, just because our bodies age doesn’t mean that our hearts and souls have to as well. I have found that immersing myself in my children’s lives and surrounding myself with youth itself has helped me stay youthful. I know that eventually my children will be grown and gone. I won’t be surrounded, at home, by youth forever. But I also know that when that time comes I will look for ways to make sure I can still be involved with children. I will volunteer with the youth at church. I will look to the youth in my community and I will look to my grandchildren. I see others who do this as well as their own children grow up and move one. I hope to follow their lead. Surrounding myself with the innocence and youth that radiates from children will indeed help me stay young.
The Fountain of Youth is real. We can tap into it anytime we wish. We only have to open ourselves up to God’s gift of children… whether it is by bringing a child into our family through birth, adoption, or some other means or if it is by working closely with children in our communities. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In Heaven we will be youthful and restored. Why not begin that process here on Earth by accepting the little children just as Christ did? Your body will still age but your heart and soul will surely stay young!
Michelle Fritz is a daughter of God, a cradle Catholic, a Georgia peach, a devoted wife of almost 30 years to amazing husband Mike, and an eclectic homeschooling mother to eleven living children. She has experienced the loss of 16 babies in her call to be open to life, but knows that God is always loving and always gracious. She and her husband know that they have an army of Saints already in heaven!
In addition to her vocation as wife, mom, and homeschool teacher she also holds a Masters in Theology and has recently taken on the role of Youth Minister for both the middle school and high school groups at her parish.