Reflections on my 82nd birthday: 'I feel like I'm 50!'

Well, believe it or not, it’s true. My family and I are celebrating my 82nd birthday this week, on March 10. And I must say that I feel as strong and vigorous as I did when I was 50. My mother is turning 101 this year (May 4), so I’m grateful to be born with great genes and come from a legacy with longevity.

I’ve been a very blessed man for over eight decades on the planet, though it hasn’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination. I’m married to the best woman on the planet – sorry ladies, my bias. I have amazing adult children and grandchildren. I fought my way to become a multiple-time world karate champion, an action movie and television actor, and a philanthropist through our Kickstart Kids nonprofit foundation. And we’ve been blessed to help people all around the country and world stay informed and stay fit through my two weekly syndicated columns (this culture warrior column and my health & fitness column), writing several books, my endorsement and work with Total Gym, as well building our C-Force water bottling company.

Speaking of writing, most are aware of the Chuck Norris Facts or jokes, which are those sayings or superhero-like memes about me that have gone viral on the internet. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them that have appeared everywhere over the last decade or more, including those I saw when visiting U.S. troops in the Middle East. They were even written out on military arsenal and porta-potties in the desert war zones. (Don’t tell the Pentagon!)

After being repeatedly hounded by publishers, I finally gave in and wrote my “101 Favorite Chuck Norris Facts” and stories about my life (here’s the Kindle and ebook versions). It was a lot of fun writing it, and I’m humbled and honored that the book was so popular. It has been given as a humorous and inspirational reading gift to countless students, military personnel and fans of all ages.

Here are two “Facts” about my birth that I included in my book that made me laugh:

“Chuck Norris was born in a log cabin that he built with his bare hands.”

“When Chuck Norris was born, no one cried but the delivery doctor. Never slap Chuck Norris!”

Those are hilarious. They are also definitely hyperbole. But there’s some truth in the fact that strange circumstances did actually surround my birth.

I was born by normal delivery if you can call seven days of labor and being born bluish-purple from prolonged oxygen deprivation “normal.”

Mom and I both almost didn’t make it. But on March 10, 1940, I weighed in for the first round of life’s big fight at six pounds, eight ounces. Mom was only 18 years old.

For the first five days of my life, the doctors and others weren’t sure I was going to live. Mom still has a letter from my grandmother to my aunt, dated that same week, which says, “Wilma’s baby probably isn’t going to live.” But we surprised them all! (My mom shares the whole story in her autobiography, “Acts of Kindness: My Story.”)

The name on my birth certificate is Carlos Ray Norris. I received my first name from the Rev. Carlos Berry, my family’s minister in Ryan, Oklahoma, a very small town on the border of Texas where I was born. My middle name was my father’s first name.

“Chuck” was actually a nickname given to me in the military. During boot camp, one of the guys in my barracks asked me about my name: “Carlos?” he said. “That’s a rather odd name for someone who isn’t Hispanic, isn’t it? What does Carlos mean in English?” When I told him it was roughly equivalent to Charles, he replied, “Good, then we’ll call you Chuck. Chuck Norris.” The nickname stuck, although my family, wife and old friends still call me Carlos.

When I think about being 82 years young, I think about our now-deceased friends, former President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush. In 2004, in celebration of his 80th birthday, I was asked by President Bush to skydive with him. We landed in a large field near the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. We jumped in tandem with members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights. It was so much fun!

He and first lady Barbara have always impressed my wife, Gena, and me, which is why they served as key mentors and examples for us in our marriage, our faith and our service to country. They also make me think of lots of others from the Greatest Generation who continue to enjoy great lives over 80 years of age, too.

I recently read about just a few more great saints who just joined the “centennial club,” celebrating 100 years of life!

Tony Cappa, a Marine Corps veteran who served in World War II, celebrated his 100th birthday with family, friends and local dignitaries, who had gathered outside of his San Clemente, California, home for a neighborhood parade on Monday, Feb. 7.

Lane Tuesday from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who joined the Navy in World War II, graduating from boot camp in 1942. As an aircraft mechanic, Lane served at various bases throughout the Pacific Theater. Lane celebrated his 100th over a few days with family and friends.

The one who takes the (birthday) cake, however, is Elizabeth Setshedi from Slagboom, South Africa, who just celebrated her early 119th birthday party Feb. 12. According to her ID book, Setshedi is one of the world’s longest-living people and not much younger than the oldest woman, Kane Tanake of Japan, who turned 119 on Jan. 2.

Asked what kept Elizabeth alive so long, local mayor Magdalene Nondzaba explained, “She says her good health comes from eating vegetables and morogo (wild spinach) every day.”

These are just a few examples of myriad individuals who didn’t stop living before they died. In fact, they remind me of a study once reported by Tony Campolo, a sociology professor and well-known Christian speaker. Campolo described the study of 50 people over the age of 95 who were asked what they would do differently if given the opportunity to live life over again. There were many answers, but three stood out more than others with the majority of respondents: they would reflect more, risk more and do more things that would live on after they were dead.

Many Americans too quickly overlook and dismiss growing old and the elderly. We wrongly value and look down on old age to our detriment and demise. The fact is, with old age comes wisdom, knowledge and even more courage to risk. Sure, your mobility might grow more restrictive, but that doesn’t mean your spirit has to. In my estimation, the older we get, our life experiences far outweigh any and all academic degrees combined.

We all were born with God-given potential to make a difference in this life, and it never stops until we do. Your life is not an accident. You were born with a purpose or purposes. You have a destiny, and maybe even multiple destinies. And if you’re still able to read this, your life is far from over.

Age is just a state of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter!

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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