Virginia Shelton, 105, reminds us that we are never too old to dream big. Yesterday, the spry and sociable Shelton met President Barack Obama when he stopped in Richmond to rally voters. And he hugged her not once but twice. Embracing the president was at the top of her bucket list she told me this summer during an interview for Richmond Magazine.
Meeting Obama, whom she proudly voted for, came three weeks after she received a letter from Michelle Obama for her birthday. The visit with Obama at the Southampton Recreation Center was a surprise for the centenarian, who credits her longevity to “the J.C. pill” [Jesus Christ].
Shelton’s spunk impressed me the moment I met her at the 150th anniversary of her hometown of Ashland. She made me chuckle that glorious Saturday when she said she had left her high heels at home since she planned to do a lot of walking during the festivities. Heels? She was 103 at the time. I knew then this lady had a zest for life.
Recently she ditched the heels at her family’s request. But her wit, enthusiasm and spiritual conviction remain. Small wonder she is beloved in her hometown and the recipient of many awards for her contributions over the decades to her community.
I am so happy Obama embraced her not once but twice. She is probably one of his oldest voters and her advice to him is a timeless truth:
“Stand up and be truthful in whatever you do.”
Shelton, like Henrietta Smith, my 91-year-old grandmother, inspires me to move forward when sadness, and not the president, embraces me. Imagine what these women have witnessed in their lifetimes. Life demands resilience and no doubt they have a lock on that. So it must be so much sweeter that during their twilight years they were able to help elect the nation’s first African-American president.
When I look at the photo of Obama hugging Shelton, I rejoice at the power of that defining moment for her. May we all have dreams still left to pursue as we age. And be blessed with people who care enough about us to help them materialize.