We are certainly living in a more enlightened age with information available at our fingertips, people being open to alternative therapies, wisdom being passed down from generation to generation and technology moving at such a rate of knots that no sooner have you upgraded your system it become obsolete and out dated! Sadly though there is one condition of society that seems to remain unfettered and that is the concept of ageism; a discrimination against people of an older age. However, I want to take this further and include people that are younger.
There is an old school of thought that younger people should automatically respect an older person simply because of their age. In the same way people are expected to automatically respect people of a higher perceived status. This is bunkum! You should respect a person regardless of their age, status or even class. Respect a person on a basic human level. We all come from the same place, we’re all going to end up the same way. Why does anyone who happens to be younger than you deserve less respect than a person who is older than you? Why does a person who is in a better paid job deserve any more respect than an apprentice or a person on the first step of the ladder. The short answer is they don’t and nor should it be commanded or demanded. This doesn’t mean you act like an idiot by the way! But it should mean that regardless of where you are from, what your beliefs are or what rank you hold in society that you should be respected just as much as the next person.
When I was younger I spent a lot of time in the company of those considerably older than me. I used to love listening to them and the fact that I was invited to spend time with them as a 15 year old boy has had more impact lately than it did at the time. They included me in conversations and the asked me about my thoughts and opinions and perhaps more importantly they listened to my answers! They didn’t mock me. They didn’t tell me that I was wrong for thinking what I was thinking. Nor did they ever tell me that because I was young my voice wasn’t meant to be heard.
In my years as a teacher I rapidly realised that the teacher needed to be a learner too, I also realised that everyone needs to keep learning! Just because someone is considerably younger doesn’t mean that their opinions aren’t worthy in just the same way that just because someone is older means that they’re right!
If you can keep an open mind you can learn something from anyone you meet or encounter but you need to be able to lose your ego to do so. You need to realise that you don’t know it all and that a different perspective can actually be a good thing. You need to appreciate that sometimes you can learn a valuable lesson from an unexpected quarter in just the same way as you could end up being the teacher.
Look to the 4 year old for an innocent view of the world - which can be quite refreshing…especially in this day and age of media hype.
Look to the 6 year old for an interesting perspective on things and their grasp on new information.
Look at the 10 year old and how they play. Look at how they enjoy life. Look at how they let their imagination let’s them explore new ideas!
Listen to the 16 year old’s concerns…they are soon going to be voting. They are going to be living in a world that has been affected by previous generations.
Look to the 21 year old who has perhaps just finished university and is trying to find their place in the world.
Listen to the 40 year old who’s life is just beginning and learn from the mistakes they made.
Listen to the 60 year old who’s coming to the end of their working life for their future plans and dreams.
Listen to the 80-90 year and learn how they coped with the stresses of war, being away from family, being shot at, losing friends...
And so on!
In conclusion what I’m trying to say is that if you can go out of your way to learn from everyone you meet (and I don’t mean facts and figures) your life could be hugely enriched.
Aim to learn one thing from everyone regardless of their age...every day!
Listen to learn…not to react.