What will your mission be until age 100?

Often in speeches, I ask the audience “How many of you would like to be 100 years old some day?” and ask for a show of hands.
You’d be surprised how few people raise their hands. This, in spite of the rising possibility that they may actually live to 100.
According to the 2000 U.S. census, centenarians are a very fast-growing population. They grew by 35 percent from 1990 to 2000, and some forecasters say there may be as many as one million centenarians by 2050.
During the same decade, the number of people age 90 to 94 increased 45 percent to 1.1 million. The number age 80 to 84 surged 26 percent to 4.9 million. So, like it or not, you may become a centenarian, or at least a near one.
We all love to hear stories of successful 100-year-olds. And some of the best stories are told in “The Living Century” biography series aired on PBS television.
The goal of the series is to identify active centenarians and put a face on this amazing segment of the population.
One of these special faces is 100-year-old Ray Crist, who grew up as a farm boy in Shepherdsville, Penn. In his interview with “The Living Century,” he said there are three words that describe him, “Farm . . . farm . . . farm. . . .”
But in spite of his commitment to the soil, Dr. Crist is a renowned scientist.
Ray was a very bright child and went to school at four. But by the time the boy was ready for high school at the age of 11, his father said he didn’t have enough homework and sent him to Messiah College, which was a high school at that time.
And Crist says he’s had homework ever since.
At the age of 16, he began college, continuing on to earn a doctorate in chemistry at Columbia University. Crist taught in four universities and authored many articles in national and international journals.
In 1941, he joined the Manhattan District Project in the development of the atomic bomb. Like Albert Einstein, whom he knew, Dr. Crist saw this as a serious ethical dilemma.
“We were very unhappy about the morality of this. . . . One scientist said, ‘It will probably blow up the atmosphere,’ and laughed raucously. That drove me crazy,” said Crist.
When he heard on the radio that the bomb had been dropped, he thought, “Here, we’ve made it and unfortunately it can’t be recovered.” Following the war, Crist helped write national policy for atomic energy and went into private industry.
After retiring at age 70, Crist became visiting professor of environmental science at his alma mater, Messiah College.
From 1971 to the present, he has taught environmental courses and has published 20 articles on his current research on bioremediation—restoring water contaminated by metals through the use of biological materials such as algae or peat moss.
As for his age, Crist says, “This matter of aging has not been a matter of concern to me. I just kept living . . . I have never in my life wondered how long I was going to live . . . I was not thinking about it, I was living it.
“I just hope I can keep going. There’s more to do,” he adds. “My mission over the last 30 years has been to help those who are going to run the country to understand how to improve the environment.”
So how about you? What will your mission be from now until age 100?

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