If you haven’t ever listened to This American Life, a syndicated, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio show by Ira Glass, you should, and you are about to.
This story has been stuck in my head since I first heard it years ago. It’s about an elderly man named Joe. Joe is eighty-plus years old, living alone in his home in Brooklyn. A charitable act leads him to open his home up to prostitutes, and drug addicts. Before long, the situation is dangerous and out of control, but a safer more sensible environment might leave Joe at a loss. It might mean that Joe has to give up any sense of purpose he has left in life. This complex story is too interesting not to hear (27 min Flash streaming audio).
The wrap up, although a little anemic, delves into an existential need that we all share. That need is one for purpose, and neither illness nor age seems to reduce the importance of its presence in our lives.
As you are about to hear, it is the polar opposite of a predictable and controlled environment that one elderly man clings to, in an attempt to avoid the safe and curated existence we have designed for our elders and ourselves.
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