Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Honouring the Wise

A busy day but one that has left me keenly aware of how incredibly blessed I am. Specifically by the amazing friends God has brought into my life.  At this point though, I am too overwhelmed, to even begin to eloquently express my gratitude.

There was however, another group of individuals that I was grateful and appreciative of today.  A people who unfortunately, we do not often give enough credit or recognition to.  In fact it would appear that the elderly become less revered with the birth of each generation.  It's a sad testimony of our society that we no longer esteem the elderly in the position of honour, that they have duly earned. 

I had the privilege today to sit with and serve alongside these older, exceptional individuals. As I engaged them in conversation, I heard wonderful stories, of days gone by.  Days when they would butcher and can their own beef.  They would leave it hanging in the barn over the winter season, going out to chop off what they needed as they needed it. Days when flour and sugar were delivered by the barrel, and mom would bake 14 loaves of a bread a week, (from scratch, sans bread maker) to feed the family. Tales of times when the preacher would "come a calling", knowing that along the trail there would be a meal ready and waiting for him. I listened as these Pillars of our faith, sang some of the most theologically sound and beautiful hymns with such fervour and authenticity that I could not help but smile in delight. Simple stories by the standards of our fast paced, Google, society and yet in it's simplicity, profound.

"These people bring to us generations of wisdom, stories of global progress and decline, memories of a time before television, cars, airplanes, moon launches and nuclear bombs.  They chart for us the childlike steps of nations determined to be modern, of despots grabbing power, of people trying to be free, of frontiers becoming urban centers. They link together the generation of long ago with the generation of today." ~Tony Campolo

The trouble is that, more often than not, we push the elderly aside, considering them more of a burden than a blessing. When we do take the time to spend with them, we only allow ourselves to enter into surface conversations, our minds inattentive, preoccupied with the deeds of the day.  If, however, we truly engaged the elderly we would gain so much wisdom.  We would get a peek into a life long gone.  When we invest time in their lives, our lives become richer.

Proverbs, the biblical book of wisdom very clearly gives credit where credit is due, explaining in chapter 16 verse 31 that "Grey hair is a crown of splendor." It is the distinguishing mark of someone who has lived through the years, earning the wisdom that experience affords.    "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding" Job 12:12. Like a thirsty horse, brought to a watering hole, how we would be refreshed and revived, if only we would sit at the feet of wisdom and soak it up.

Not only do they hold wisdom we can not afford to ignore but I have experienced that the elderly are some of our best cheerleaders. They know what it is to struggle through the ups and downs of life, they have experienced the crippling hurt of loss and the exceeding joy of triumph.  In turn, most want nothing more than to help spare us the pain, and see us grab hold of the victories. They truly do mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Unlike our peers, there is no sense of competition.  They are so past that.  Meaning that they can, with an unadulterated heart and pure motives, extend their full support, and constant encouragement to us in our efforts to achieve our dreams and live fully the life God has prepared for us.

There is a popular though somewhat demeaning cliche that says "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," but you can certainly learn from them, how to master the old ones and avoid the mistakes of new ones.  We need to return to the days when silver hair was revered as a crown.  Back to a time when we recognized and cherished the contributions of our elders.

For those of you, who still struggle to recognize the importance of valuing our elders, God has this to say, as quoted from Leviticus 19:32.   "Show respect to the aged; honor the presence of an elder; fear your God. I am God."

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