It was my birthday and the fourth graders had turned up at the Mass to sing "Happy Birthday". That morning I went into the classroom to thank them for their thoughtfulness. They were a happy group. "Any questions?" I asked. One youngster put his hand up, "Monsignor, Monsignor, how many birthdays? I mean, how old are you?" "SEVENTY," I said. "SEVENTEEN, SEVENTEEN," the kid repeated. "NO," I said "70, SEVEN-ZERO." Immediately, he ran to the board and wrote the number "17". I said, "NO, SEVENTY." "SEVENTY!" he shouted again. "WOW!"
"Don't be so gross," said Sally. "My Grandad ... No! My Great Grandad is 78." Then several hands went up, "Monsignor, Monsignor, my grandma, no she's an auntie of my Dad. She's 91!"
It was all so comforting until Jacob began figuring furiously with his calculator. "Monsignor, my great-great-grandma ... (and then he looked at his calculator) she's 109 ... but she's dead."
The subject of ages changed surprisingly. They claim that the attention span of youngsters is shorter than ours, that they are more direct, less sensitive, less harnessed by a lot of our conventional ways of speaking. Well, whatever! That group of fourth graders were a sheer delight, so much themselves, so open, so friendly, so accommodating, so sympathetic, that I walked out glad that I was SEVENTY, (not seventeen) and still alive. Jacob seemed glad, too.
(The names of the people were changed before it was given to Our Lady of Malibu website.)