I am homeschooled, and this is my junior year of high school. I have had the privilege of participating in a public speaking class, and have my first competition this weekend. I have researched, edited and practiced my speech for several months now, and am very excited for my upcoming opportunities to share it with others. As I thought through what my topic should be, I was instructed to choose a topic that I was passionate about. What you are about to read is views and beliefs on the importance of young adults seeking to spend time with the elders in their lives and how we can benefit from doing so.
I remember when I was little how excited I would become when Mom told my big brother and I that we could go and visit with Mr. Bob and Ms. Mona. We were all smiles as we hopped on our bikes and pedaled as fast as we could down the cracked sidewalk in anticipation of what was to come. It was only a minute or two before we were seated around the dining room table in the cozy white home on Casey Street, visiting and laughing with the Coats. Even at that young age I loved spending time with elders; and as I have grown older, nothing has changed… I still do. The elders that I have grown to love in my life have helped to shape me into the person that I am today, and their relationships have benefitted me in innumerable ways. Today I would like to present to you three reasons why I believe we, as young adults benefit from intergenerational relationships. I will explain to you how this teaches us selflessness, how these people have valuable wisdom that benefits our present and future lives, and, last but not least, how these people provide us with mentors and role models. The goal is to help you realize the benefits of multi-generational connections, and to encourage you to seek out such relationships for yourselves.
The first reason that I would like to present in encouraging you to spend time with elders is that it teaches us selflessness. Think with me for a moment, on how you spend your extra time. Now ask yourself this question: what motivates this use of my time? If I am honest with myself, the majority of free time I have is spent in selfish ways. I enjoy sitting alone quietly in my room curled up with a good book, or I’ll be on the computer wasting time. It’s not that these pass-times are wrong… it is simply that my motivations are. I am doing what I am doing because it makes me happy. I decide to spend my time doing whatever I feel in the mood to do. I believe this is probably true for many young adults in our generations. However, if we were to take some time from our lives, and spend it with our elders we can learn selflessness. How so? We are not only learning to sacrifice something we want, but we are also learning to invest, TRULY invest, that time in the life of someone else. We are getting to know these people. We are learning what they like, what they disdain, how they enjoy spending their time, where they come from, what their stories are… We simply learn who they are and what their lives are like. We take a break from constantly thinking of ourselves, and focus on someone else. This is investing in someone’s life, and this teaches us selflessness. One thing that I have come to realize is that elders love it when we take time for them. They love the company, and they love to tell their stories to young people. This brings them joy, and we learn to delight in bringing them joy. This teaches us selflessness and humility, which can be two very difficult, yet essential lessons to learn.
Another reason that I would urge you to spend time with your elders is that they have lived their lives and have valuable wisdom to share with us. An example of such wisdom would be this: our elders have lived through difficult economic times such as wars and depressions. They have learned to be resourceful and good stewards with the goods that they have, and they teach us to do the same. Bessie’s Hope is a foundation dedicated to uniting elders and young adults in their community. According to a 2010 article from their studies have proven that strong intergenerational relationships result in multiple benefits, including economic benefits. I have personally experienced this through my grandparents.
My grandma and grandpa have raised 11 children on their own without ever relying on anyone else for help. As you can imagine, money did become tight. However, Dad and his siblings were always well provided for. How did my grandparents accomplish this? They wisely used what they had been blessed with. Grandpa had a very substantial-sized garden put out every year that he used to grow much of the food that they ate. Grandma used her skills and resources effectively to make the clothes and other necessities that her family needed. They didn’t have everything they wanted, but they had everything they needed. I am extremely grateful that my grandparents have taken the time to pass these lessons on to me. Every year for as far back as my memory goes Grandpa has taken my brothers and I into his back yard and planted a garden with us. He taught us year after year to grow plants and to tend to them so that they would yield as much as possible. Grandma has also taken time to teach me her wisdom. When I was 6 years old she began to teach me how to sew. She wanted, and still does want me to be able to make my own clothes with little resources so that I will be capable of clothing myself and my family on a budget. I appreciate these lessons that my Grandparents have taught me because they have already benefitted me in my life and I know that they will continue to.
Another wise lesson that our elders can teach us is that of remaining joyful, content, and faithful despite what trials or struggles we come across in life. One person in particular has beautifully illustrated this to me. Her name is Cathy Coats. Cathy is one of the most amazing people that I know. She has a beautiful heart that is joyful, loving, caring, content and compassionate. She spends her time on the computer buying gifts for others and writing stories from her vast imagination. However, Cathy has experienced her share of trials. At age twelve, she was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia. This is a genetically inherited disease which causes loss of muscle coordination and speech impairments. At age 16, this disease resulted in Cathy being confined to a wheelchair. On top of that, David, her younger brother, who also had Friedreich’s Ataxia, was driving a wheelchair-accessible car when he died in a fatal crash. Cathy is now one of the most loving, joyful, content, God-loving ladies I know… but if you were to ask her, she would admit that she struggled to get there, due to various things that had happened in her life. Her story has had a huge impact on me, it has taught me that it truly is possible to remain joyful despite what comes. It is one thing to have head knowledge of this fact, but it becomes so much more real when you see it in the life of someone that you know and love. This is the perfect example of the importance of spending time with elders.
The final reason that it is imperative for young adults to develop meaningful relationships with elders is that they can, and do provide the strong role models and mentors we definitely need in our lives. In their 2004 Intergenerational Service project profile, the Partnership for After School Education says : “ By providing comforting guidance, seniors can be mentors, friends, confidants, and better neighbors”. This is something that both we and our elders benefit from. We all need a role model. We all need that person that we can look to and say “That is who I want to be like. That is whose footsteps I want to follow in. Some of us may have a tendency to look towards the wrong places for these examples, such as Hollywood, Broadway, the music industry and so on. However, when we look towards the elders in our lives we see real, down-to-earth, godly men and women whom we can not only model, but also go to for guidance and mentorship. Titus 2 speaks of this mentorship, instructing older woman to mentor the younger woman in godliness and their husbands and children, and older men to instruct the younger men in godly conduct and character. One such person whom God has placed in my life is Ms. Mona.
Ms. Mona is one of the godliest ladies I know. If you were to ask me who I looked up to for an example, this is it. She loves the Lord with all of her heart and loves everyone more than herself. When I look at her I see someone who remains strong throughout difficulty. She has lost her youngest son to a car wreck, has lost her husband to cancer, and now spends her time caring for her daughter Cathy, the lady I just spoke about. But through everything she is content, she is joyful, she is loving. She will take time from what she is doing to fellowship with you, and when she asks “ How are you?” you know that the question is backed with genuine care and concern. This is who I want to be. This is my Titus 2 lady.
Although in our culture, the current generation tends to be looked down upon and disregard our elders throughout God’s word he admonishes us to have reverence for them and listen to their counsel. This is exactly the path I am urging you to embark on. I have spoken on how this teaches us selflessness. I have given some examples on the wisdom that they have to teach us. Lastly, I have spoken on how our elders are amazing mentors and role models for our lives. I hope that this has encouraged and inspired you to seek the blessings that I have found in these beautiful relationships that are waiting to be made.