“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
Those who have followed this blog know that I’ve written about generational similarities and differences, Baby Boomers, becoming more connected, and being in integrity. In this post I’d like to weave these subjects together and address the importance of valuing our elders. Why? Because doing so is kind, courteous and necessary.
While each is defined differently, I see enough similarity in the words: honoring, favoring and respecting – to view them as interchangeable when talking about our older generation.
Honoring elders is customary in indigenous cultures where older people are respected and used in a socially integrative manner, passing on survival-based wisdom to the next generation. Sadly, in the youth oriented culture of modernity, our elders are not valued or used in this way and as a result, suffer a loss of self-esteem, self-worth and a sense of purpose. To address the challenges of today’s world, when there is not one part of our biosphere not under threat of extinction, we need to consider the value of all humanity.
There used to exist a concept called ‘elders.’ Seemingly they were these kind, wisdom-filled seniors who we could turn to in times of doubt for inspiration and teachings. They were no longer in a position of power but they were still held in high regard for they had survived life’s hardships and lived to tell the tale. They knew the obstacles in our paths because they had walked those same journeys. They could be called upon for and wisely shared advice.
Unfortunately, many elders haven’t been able to keep up with the accelerating pace of environmental issues, modern child rearing, lightening fast technological developments, social change and its related complexities, etc. They don’t possess the knowledge or experience to solve the problems that we face today. This is not to suggest that they have little or nothing to offer. Quite the contrary. But we have to think carefully how we can involve our elders so as to not frustrate or overwhelm them. They do have valuable insights and knowledge.
If the concept of ‘elders’ is to come back into our culture, then we are going to have to behave in a way that our young can respect us. As it is now, most youth do not trust their political leaders, the media, their educators, or even their own parents to be intelligent, honest, and compassionate. If we are to be seen as ‘elders’ some day, then we must earn their respect today.
Which begs the question: What can we do today to value, respect and/or honor our ‘elders’? Here are three suggestions:
Listen. One of my favorite acts. More than anything else, listening conveys love and respect. We communicate more by listening than we do by speaking. We do well when our ears are quicker than our tongues. Simply listen.
- Slow down. Elders value not being rushed. They appreciate taking their time to talk and enjoy each other. The same is true with kids! We can honor our elders by walking their pace and refusing the urge to glance at the clock, never mind our mobile devices.
- Ask advice. We might not always agree, but asking and really weighing their thoughts is a good way to show them respect. It wasn’t all that long ago that people asked people for advice. Google wasn’t around. No computer generated answer will ever compare to the wisdom in the white hairs of our elders. What a concept: advice with skin. 🙂