“I’m old!” This realization came to me as I walked down 15th Street this morning. Bundled up against the cold, I was headed to another doctor’s appointment.

This thought about my age struck me, but didn’t sink me. Although I am 82 years old, I didn’t even rue the word “old,” nor the feelings that usually come with it. For a brief moment anyway, I just owned it. I’m old. Not bad, even good.

I made a mental note to especially welcome and thank the older people who come to our church. Often, I thank the parents who bring their babies, and am glad when young people show up. “You are our future,” I tell them.

But I don’t usually thank those who are old. Why? Do I take them and their faith for granted? Do I think they are washed up? Their day is done? But the past is as important as the future. These old ones — like me!have borne the heat of the day. They are filled with memories and stories, even if no one is especially interested in hearing them at times.

Young people stand on our shoulders. We should be proud of that. And they should be too.

Instead of the “Don’t get old!” quip, I want to thank God for this realization I had today. And I want to be still enough now to appreciate my “old”ness — my wrinkled face, my trudging feet, and all that they mean.

I want to look into the eyes of old people whom I pass on the street, or pray with at church. “Hello, in there!” I want to murmur to myself and them (along with John Prine who wrote and sang this amazing song).

Hello in there, dear old souls! This Thanksgiving, I want to thank you from the bottom of my old heart for your life and witness, and especially for your oldness.

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Father Paul Morrissey is in residence at St. Augustine Parish, Philadelphia.