Reverend Steve Jones: The importance of honouring our elders
- Credit: Steve Jones
In his latest column, Reverend Steve Jones writes about the importance of honouring our elders
As a vicar I have the joy and privilege of spending time with people from all generations; awestruck parents with their newborns, giggly primary school children, teenagers who love to say wonderfully outrageous things, wide-eyed world-conquering young people at college or university, or those excited to be in their first jobs, the blissful newly-married, those who are busy in the rapid growth phase of their lives, the confident forty- and fifty-somethings relishing their wisdom and experience, the charitable pre- and newly retired, and our senior citizens.
I try to treat everyone that I meet with respect, but there is one group in our community whom I absolutely revere: our elders.
In societies around the world the elders of each community are treated very differently.
In some societies the senior members are treated as leaders in wisdom and experience and regularly dispense counsel in the meeting places and public squares of the people.
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They are reflexively honoured by their communities.
In other societies the elders are treated with disregard and disrespect. No longer considered useful for producing income or beneficial community service, and viewed often as a burden, they can be left aside in isolation to waste away wondering what they did wrong and what it was all for.
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Maybe how elders are treated says a lot about the core values of the society that they live in.
Many of our senior citizens have incredible stories. I recall one elderly man whom I met living in a homeless shelter. He presented as small, timid, and frail.
I discovered that this man had once fought bravely in three theatres of major warfare and was a real hero. I also recall speaking with an elderly and humble woman shortly before she died and finding out that she had been a wartime code breaker at Bletchley Park. Almost no one knew of her past.
Recently one of my slightly frail senior ladies was walking along a pavement next to a busy road in Exmouth, wearing her mask, trying to keep socially distanced from people. Coming towards her were two teenage girls engrossed in laughter and conversation. They did not even notice my friend.
She had to quickly step out into the road to avoid them. The girls passed her by without noticing her existence.
They did not acknowledge the danger that she was put in or her distress. Not to be noticed by the younger generations must be a real discouragement for our long-serving and faithful seniors. So, why should we be a community that honours its elders?
In the Book of Job in the Bible we learn that ‘wisdom is with the aged’ and understanding comes in the ‘length of days’. In wisdom terms, there is no substitute for having some ‘miles on the tyres’.
While our seniors may not understand the intricacies of Tik Tok or know who Stormzy is, they do know what forms human character and what helps communities to work together for the benefit of all; they were doing that long before many of us were born.
The great blessings our community enjoys today largely arise out of the societal foundations hewn by our residents seventy years old and above. Would you therefore join with me in making renewed effort to respect, notice, and acknowledge our elders as they pass us by? Perhaps we could stop and, at a safe distance, ask how they are managing and what they think about our world today. We may really learn something in our conversation on the pavement.
I believe that we will be a richer, more earthed, and more durable community if we actively value our beloved seniors each day, and not just at times of national remembrance. Our seniors yet have much to offer. So, can I ask you to join me in respecting some of our elders today