The Weekly Dream: Old School
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come thereafter.”
-Ecclesiastes 1:9, 11
June is family month. The summer, in general, is a time for family reunions, family vacations, and other activities to reconnect with the people we share last names, living quarters and blood. With all this familial love in the air, it has always been a fascination of mine about how strong genetics and certain character traits manifest themselves over time in individuals.
For instance, if you knew both of my parents, you would be able to pick out the mannerisms and physical characteristics I inherited from each of them. Family often serves not only to provide socialization, but also context to our personality and worldview.
Starting from this premise, I have been mildly obsessed with the origin of things. As an African-American, I cannot help but lament the piecemeal lineage I am apart of. But even more immediate, I am infinitely interested in my grandparents and the older generation’s view of the world and their experience.
The game don’t change, only the players
My grandparents are the backbone of my family. This is the case for many individuals. But what is of interest for me is how they were able to persevere through some of the worse times in American History. My grandparents have lived through the depression, Jim Crow, Affirmative Action, an oil crisis, and the list goes on. And since hindsight is 20-20, I often find myself struggling to understand how they found the strength and resiliency to keep going, create something beautiful out of nothing and still keep their sense of humor.
In their day, racism was overt. There were no such things as career advancement, benefits, or a car. Yet, they were able to do more with what they had back then than what my generation can do now. The world promised them nothing.
The world still does not promise anyone anything. We have issues of entitlement and privilege in our society, where individuals believe that they deserve something or because they work hard, they are entitled to something. Well, life is not fair. There are a lot of people who work a lot harder and do not have their fair share. This was a hard truth for me to swallow at an early age. It was a lesson that was impressed upon me by the examples of my parents and grandparents. Watching them work, sacrifice and live morally upright garnered my admiration.
We were never rich but I appreciated the heritage that my grandparents preserved and instilled in my family structure. It was a heritage of solidarity, faith, hard work, and integrity.
Respect you elders
All of us have inherited some heritage from our family. It may not be monetary, but character, morals and values have no price tag. We should celebrate the good and be aware of the bad.
One way to do this is to spend time and listen to our elders. Youth often think that the elderly as out dated and unaware of what is going on. In the process, they make a deadly mistake. The same sun that rose when they were born is the same sun that is in the sky today, and it is the same sun that will be here when all of us depart from what we know as life. That means that there are some things that do not change. These are the fundamentals of life. And understanding those things is what is called wisdom.
People can acquire wisdom through direct experience or the experience of others. I’d rather learn from the experience of others rather than try to make every mistake in the world. Spending time with the elderly can lead to gaining understanding and insight. Only in America is age correlated with obsolescence. However, they did not get that old being a fool.
What Can We Learn
What can we learn from our elders? From my grandparents, I learned patience, discipline, sacrifice, responsibility and loyalty. My grandparents would give any of us the shirt off of their back and they genuinely care about people.
At the same time, they had backbone. They knew what was right and what was wrong and were not afraid to let you know which side you were on. The have manners and were respectful. Some things were just sacred to them.
They are good judges of character. My grandfather always made me laugh when he would tell me why someone was not going to turn out to be any good. And years later, he would be right. Garlin and I would often bring certain young ladies we dated around our grandmothers to see what they would say.
There is a generational divide between the old and the young. Some of the trends and things we are into, they will not understand and vice versa. But that does not mean that they do not have a lot of wonderful gifts and guidance to offer us, especially in these perilous and uncertain times. We need each other. The elderly need our energy and exuberance. We need their wisdom and guidance. So let’s celebrate our elders and give them the honor that they deserve. Spend time with them and you might learn something.
I thank God for all of my elders. Without them, we would not be here.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
Question of the Week: How do you honor your elders?