Although I can’t quite trace its derivation, the idea of having “skin in the game” is one of those colorful colloquialisms that speaks volumes. There’s something elemental and raw in the idea of having so much of an interest in something that you invest your (literal) skin in its success. This expression sometimes describes the kind of commitment that goes beyond intellectual assent. In those cases, skin might mean risking your money, time or expertise—something valuable—in order to make something happen.
It might seem that those of us who are older don’t have much skin in the game. Literally or figuratively, we might be presumed to be skinless, devoid of assets or capabilities that might make something happen. Or worse: We don’t have much interest in anything else except our own skins because we don’t have a stake in what’s happening all around us—as though the vagaries of current society don’t affect us.
As you might imagine, I disagree with those presumptions! At this time in our lives, those of us who are older continue to be stakeholders in much of current society: Investments in religious enterprises—many with no guaranteed outcomes—that have continued for decades. Still taking pleasure in supporting our kids’ and grandkids’ long-term well-being. Involvement in political causes whose history perhaps only we appreciate. Countless hours of quiet volunteering in places where the results are not visible to most people. Sweat equity in societal values—e.g., civility—that we fervently want to continue.
In these years, many of us also feel responsibility for the future that our descendants will inherit. Whatever the skin might be, we’re all in—for the environment, honesty in politics, social justice, God’s mission in the world.
You want to see skin in life’s games? Watch older adults…..!
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