Aging as a Spiritual Journey

Michael Williams
4 min readJun 12, 2023
Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash

From my 40s to my early 60s, I taught and tutored teenagers in both public and private schools in the UK. For the most part, my relationship with them was cordial and courteous, although there were occasions when some students were certainly less than respectful. However, there was one occasion that I will not forget.

In one of the private schools where I worked, we had a number of international students. My class that year had a particularly global context with students from Thailand, India, and Japan. I still recall walking into that class on the first day and being surprised when the young woman from Japan bowed to me. Even more surprised when the young man from Thailand put his hands together in blessing, bowed, and referred to me as “Grandfather”. For my Asian students, my age was seen as something to revere.

Years later, when I began tutoring older children from Bangladeshi families living in Scotland, I experienced a similar reverence. In those days, I tutored in the homes of my students so was met by parents, grandparents, and other members of the extended family. Entire families would greet me, bow, and express gratitude for my services. Their children did the same. I was always offered food before I left. I felt like an honoured guest. It was frequently explained to me that education was highly respected among Asian families and that a teacher was valued as a very important member of society.

Later in my teaching career, I also had an opportunity to work in the Middle East. By then, my hair and beard were more grey. But again, I found a level of respect for my age and profession that I had not always enjoyed in the West. During a group session that I was facilitating between an assembly of Israelis and Palestinians, a situation arose that raised tension and could have potentially become violent and disassembled the gathering. With the help of my translator (an older Palestinian man), I was able to calm the group and bring them back to order. Later, my translator told me that it was largely because of my age that people listened to me and respected my requests. When the session was finished, A teenage Palestinian boy and his two friends approached me, hugged me, and, in broken English, said “I love you, man”.

When I returned to the UK, I established a story coaching practice. My purpose…

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Michael Williams

I’m a storyteller, StoryCoach, writer, accredited End-of-Life Planning Facilitator, spiritual mentor & podcast host. Oh yeah, I play ukulele.