Spending Time with the Elderly

When was the last time you spent a few hours with some elderly folks whom were not related to you?

Honestly, it had been a long time for myself until this past week. We were invited to talk about our life in Malaysia with a small group of elderly at a retirement home. After the wonderful talk and interesting dialogues that we had, we were invited up to one of the couple’s apartment and then they treated us to dinner in the retirement home’s dining hall.

It was truly a wonderful afternoon. I’m sure they appreciated us coming out and talking with them, but I walked away from it appreciative for their long and dedicated lives for making the world a better place. The wife of the elderly couple is 97 years old and still as sharp as a tack. Her husband, the doctor, is her younger by a couple years or so.

I noticed a couple of things during our visit. First of all, as a writer, I studied the couple to better understand how an elderly couple walks, talks, communicates with each other, and goes about living in their tenth decade of life and seventh decade of marriage. Wow!

But please don’t think I was looking at merely specimen for study and research in order to make my writing more authentic. Not at all. I was humbled to learn of their sacrifices and their passion for serving others. I was thrilled to hear their stories – how the young doctor was studying his profession during the war years (1943) at the Cathedral of Learning in the University of Pittsburgh – how he was sent to post-war Okinawa to practice his profession – how when he returned he was introduced to a beautiful young woman at church – how he asked her to marry him but how she had to go home and pray it over before committing – and how they eventually settled into the Congo and then Cambodia and then the Congo once again, making memories, healing the sick, starting a family, and making an incredible difference around the world.

I was blessed and challenged by this amazing couple. And it got me thinking. How many other amazing elderly couples or singles are sitting right in this retirement home? How many stories have yet to be told and might be gone forever if no one ever sits down to listen? How many stories throughout the country (throughout the world) sit idle because of the busy pace of our modern lives?

We all need to make an effort to learn and listen from the generations which have gone before us. How much better would our world be if we turned off the reality TV and tuned into some real-life drama by real-life people?

This is a challenge for all of us before it is too late.

Do Teens Realize How Uncool They Are About to Become?

I was reading one of those silly, time-wasting posts on Facebook the other day. This one was a list of some of the most epic failures in parent-teen texting–you know the kind–the kind where the parent is a complete clueless idiot, like the mother who added WTF to her daughter’s SMS thinking it meant “Well That’s Fantastic.”

As I was reading ridiculous example after ridiculous example, I noticed myself formulating in my mind the type of teen who was on the other end of the message – tech savvy and eye-rolling irreverent, yet loving towards their parent. They certainly believe that their parent is living in the dark ages and just doesn’t understand the ins and outs of modern life becoming that uncool drag on their kids’ social life. No wonder kids have exited Facebook in droves, looking for cooler pastures where their folks won’t graze.

This particular post was good for a chuckle, but it made me realize that teens have no idea what’s coming in their future. One day they will turn into the joke for their kids as well. (in the most loving way possible) They will be the object of eye-rolling and impatience as their kids make fun of them for not knowing the latest google-gadget-gotta-have nonsense.

Fortunately, I like computers and online life, so I’ve been able to navigate that aspect of teen life fairly well. But if you ask me about a pop star or a movie star or the coolest rage in TV shows, I will be as clueless as anyone else who can’t competently send a text message. In reality, however, it’s not really any different than when I was growing up.

My generation rolled our eyes at Bluegrass, Country, Southern Gospel, Buddy Holly, and the venerable Lawrence Welk, whom our parents forced upon us. You would never have caught my parents listening to Styx, Journey, Kansas, Bob Seger, Foreigner, or Toto. (They would have wondered how they got the dog to sing anyways.)

So one of the joys of my life, and I hope I live long enough to see it, would be to watch my kids’ faces as my teenage grand kids eye-roll and make fun of their obsolescence. I want my kids to know what it’s like to be uncool, just so they know that we weren’t so bad after all.

Well that would be fantastic.