Let's hear it for wisdom
Escape with Eddie
What would any of us do without our ancestors? Sometimes I think most of what I learned that was really important, I learned from parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Sometimes, they were even great grands … Knowledge comes from a good many sources. I have come to realize a large portion of information comes from the elders.
Most cultures have great respect for elders. I’m not so sure that is the case in the U.S., though. I was reading in a local Sunday paper about the attorney who was asked to leave his partnership and practice after turning 70 years old. He had been a major force in the law practice, but was asked to leave, it seems because of his age. He went into practice with a younger attorney and they are doing great.
This article brought to mind how much of the collective knowledge of elders is wasted. When I was a young child, I loved to here the older folks talk about things. I suppose I heard a few things I shouldn’t have, but the fact is, I learned a great deal from those conversations. For example, I learned an awful lot about country music, Gabriel Heatter and the war in Germany. I also learned a few choice bits of gossip, but that’s neither here nor there. I became aware at an early age that not everyone’s life was as protected as mine.
I heard stories about older cousins who were off to war. I learned about domestic situations that were troublesome. I learned that the world was a big place and there were a lot of cultures, languages and customs. I was encouraged to study the globe and find the different countries of the people I met. I met a lot of them. My mother worked in a hotel in Evanston that housed students from all over Europe and Asia who came to study at Northwestern University. On Sunday afternoons, my mother would cook large pots of spaghetti and meatballs and invite people over who felt homesick and wanted a home cooked meal. I met police officers from China, Hawaii, Germany, Italy and India. Was it interesting? You bet!
All of them, almost without exception, were elders. I learned geography through their stories, and I learned culture through their behavior. Best of all though, they treated me like I was hungry for information and a student of their customs. It really was an exciting time in my life.
Over the years I have enjoyed having guests from other countries. Communication without language is an interesting experience. As I have said before, I know about three words in Russian. Yet Don and I entertained a federal judge from Russia for a week. This visit gave me the insight that Russians have the same worries as you and I. I learned what it means to live 200 miles from the Arctic Circle. You have constant permafrost. This is interesting when you go to build a house or roads.
It’s true my formal education happened in the various schools I attended. However, the added information gained from social interaction is what really cemented the learning. Our elders are where we learn about the Social mores so crucial to success in the world. It is the role modeling, the social poise, the behaviors of our Elders that really impacts who we are.
So my recommendation is this: If you have a chance to learn from an elder, take advantage of it. If you are an elder, take a chance to get to know the young ones. It’s a great education for both groups.