“One of the final challenges for human beings is to get old with as much verve and gumption as possible. Old parents who keep on being interested in life give a subtle kind of sustenance to their children; they are givers of hope and affirmers of life” (Alison Judson Ryerson).
VERVE AND GUMPTION. How much of these are you going to have left by the time you get old, if you haven’t already gotten there? Do you have any verve and gumption right now? These may not be life’s most important character qualities, but they’re valuable in their proper place and we should appreciate them for what they are.
Verve is a colorful word. Its sound almost gives away its meaning: the expression of one’s ideas with energy and enthusiasm. Think of old Red Skelton, for example. He never said anything profoundly new or radically unique, but whatever he said, he said with verve. And as a result, people listened — with engagement, interest, and delight.
If you and I don’t have much verve anymore (as we naturally did when we were children), it’s worth wondering why. We might blame it on circumstances that have beaten us down and sapped our energy. But real verve doesn’t come from being surrounded by fortunate circumstances; it comes from giving ourselves enthusiastically to the tasks that are ours to take care of. “Satisfaction,” wrote Nikolai Berdyaev, “is felt not by those who take and make demands but by those who give and make sacrifices. In them alone the energy of life does not fail.”
People who live their lives and do their work with verve tend to have a more powerful impact for good on the lives of others. So we’d probably give our friends and family a gift worth giving if we started expressing ourselves with a bit more energy and enthusiasm.
On the other hand, few things in life are sadder than to see someone who no longer has any verve left. “The worst bankrupt in the world is the man who has lost his enthusiasm” (H. W. Arnold).
Some of the things we need to do in life aren’t very effective if they’re not done with verve (such as saying “thank you” or “I love you”). Too many of us fall below the level of effectiveness because our words and deeds are little more than lukewarm. Wouldn’t it be better, really, if we decided to do life’s good things with a little more zip?
“It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing” (Ella Fitzgerald).