Joy + Love = Young at Heart

Samuel Ullman

The secret to looking young is feeling young. And the secret to feeling young is greeting each day with joy and gratitude and treating each person you meet with a loving heart.

As I wrote in an earlier post, the more toxic our system, the more quickly our body ages. That’s why bestselling author Caroline Myss said in a lecture I attended that she decided to forgive a former colleague because her resentment toward him wasn’t worth adding one more wrinkle to her face.

Nineteenth-century educator Samuel Ullman expressed these timeless truths in Youth, his well-known prose poem.


Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease.  This often exists in a man of sixty more than a body of twenty.  Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.  Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living.  In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

Here is Ullman’s bio, courtesy of the Samuel Ullman Museum’s website:

Ullman was born in Germany in 1840. At the age of eleven, he and his family moved to the United States and settled in Port Gibson, Mississippi. After briefly serving in the Confederate Army, he became a resident of Natchez, Mississippi. There, Ullman married, started a business, served as a city alderman, and was a member of the local board of education.

In 1884, Ullman moved to the young city of Birmingham, Alabama, and was immediately placed on the city’s first board of education.

During his eighteen years of service, he advocated educational benefits for black children similar to those provided for whites. In addition to his numerous community activities, Ullman also served as president and then lay rabbi of the city’s reform congregation at Temple Emanu-El. Often controversial but always respected, Ullman left his mark on the religious, educational, and community life of Natchez and Birmingham.

In his retirement, Ullman found more time for one of his favorite passions – writing letters, essays and poetry. His poems and poetic essays cover subjects as varied as love, nature, religion, family, the hurried lifestyle of a friend, and living “young.” It was General Douglas MacArthur who facilitated Ullman’s popularity as a poet – he hung a framed copy of a version of Ullman’s poem “Youth” on the wall of his office in Tokyo and often quoted from the poem in his speeches. Through MacArthur’s influence, the people of Japan discovered “Youth” and became curious about the poem’s author.

It is appropriate that “Youth” is the element that brought Ullman’s life into public scrutiny. The message of “Youth,” its emphasis on optimism and its challenge to remain true to one’s ideals, reflects the substance of Ullman’s life. Spanning the experience of immigrant, soldier, businessman, and progressive community activist, Samuel Ullman’s story continues to provide inspiration to the world community decades after his death.


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4 Responses to “Joy + Love = Young at Heart”

  1. ArrVee Says:

    “Youth” is full of pithy gems, which have a way of lingering in one’s mind after reading it, encouraging one to further ponder their meaning:
    – “it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”
    – “We grow old by deserting our ideals.”
    – “to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

    the following passage however, speaks to me in a special way:

    “In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.”

    in order to receive these messages of inspiration, we need to actively listen for them. They are all around us and all we need to do is to open up our minds and pay attention to the details. They are there for our asking in our times of need – we just need inner silence and peace to let them seep in into our consciousness.

    we should also strive to broadcast our own messages of inspiration, amplifying what we have received in turn, or drawing from our own experiences, for the benefit of others. We should also realize that we ourselves are a medium that is the message, so we should care about the statements we are making in the way we conduct our daily lives.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Well said, ArrVee. We indeed are a medium ourselves:

    You may be the only Bible somebody else reads.
    Mark Twain

    Incidentally, I find it amusing that Samuel Ullman spoke of wireless stations more than a hundred years before such stations enabled us to wirelessly connect to the Internet!

  3. ArrVee Says:


    That occurred to me as well while I was writing my comment, and after reading the background information on Ullman. That was the paradigm then, when being able to get messages wirelessly was a quantum leap. I wonder what he would have said in this age of BlackBerries – maybe he would have mentioned “supple fingers” in addition to “supple knees?” :-)

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    An excellent point, ArrVee!

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