Serendipity and life lessons

I felt like a child tonight.

Well, not a child, exactly, but certainly not my age.

Perched on an out-of-the-way ”love bench” at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott like a quiet wall flower, I was waiting for Mike and people-watching. The happy hour prior to the Companis 20th anniversary celebratory dinner grew louder and more crowded as the clock ticked towards dinner. I decided to grab a glass of wine for him, because the odds were good he’d be slipping in under the proverbial wire.

When I returned to my bench, an older gentleman was sharing it with my purse and coat. He rose to leave, and I protested. “There’s room for two,” I said. “It’ll be tight,” he laughed.

judge johnsonSo I relocated my coat and purse to the floor and unknowingly took a seat alongside retired Seattle Municipal Court/King County Superior Court Judge Charles V. Johnson. Thus began my ride along his coattails as one gentleman after another stopped to pay respects.

In between conversation with others, I learned he is also a fellow southerner, an Arkansas native, and a UW law school alum, class of 1957.

“I was born then, but just barely.” We both laughed.

A spry 85 years of age, the judge volunteers with his church, the King County Bar Association, NAACP and more. He retired from the bench at 70, but continued to work Pro Tem (think substitute teacher, but for the bench) until last year.


“I want to be like you when I’m 85.”

Judge Johnson laughed and said he wished for me good health.

“I guess I always think of myself as a young man,” he said. That’s another way to explain that you’re only as old as you feel.

He was on the Superior Court for a little less than 20 years. It was the third stage of his legal career, having started in private practice in 1958.

After my chance chat with Judge Johnson, Mike and I ate dinner with our friends and heard the success stories of Seattle’s “peace corps.” I wondered, what can I do over the next 20 years to help my community?

Starting anew – just learning something new – is a form of rebirth, of staying young.

I’ve learned that I’m happiest when I’m doing something new. Once routine, I bore easily.

Careers are malleable, and Judge Johnson’s story made it clear that they don’t have to end at 65.

Where will mine go next?

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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