Our hearts are revealed by the way that we treat our elders.
They can be an encumbrance and a weight, mirroring our own mortality. They do not always say the things we like, agree with or want to hear. Maybe they behave in the ways we think elders aren’t supposed to behave. It requires a person of substantial heart to see past these facts and to the wisdom elders have to share, teach and offer and to serve them and care for them out of gratitude for the life and wisdom they have passed on.
In this culture, it isn’t easy to have gratitude for our elders. Our culture views elders like a burden that offers no promise, any hope. They are often a sad, gray presence hidden behind phrases like “retired person”, “senior citizen” or ‘the elderly”. Often, they are pushed aside into irrelevance, tolerated or feared. They are not sought after, honored or even loved for the wisdom their years have imparted to them.
One of the things that has been pressed firmly into my memory banks and has grown deep roots over the years is the importance of elders. Reverence for elders and those who have traveled the road before me has become intrinsic to my spirituality and philosophy.
I’ve been taught that there is no other life so near in time or as close to my own as the elders who saw the world that I came into. It doesn’t matter if theirs was the most limited, ordinary or simple life, you will never be so near the world you arrived in as you are when you are speaking to an elder. For this alone, elders are to be honored and revered and listened to.
Elders offer a glimpse into our futures. They were you and you will be them one day. From them we can learn what it is to age and learn how to deal with life on life’s terms everyday for years at time. From them we gain wisdom, knowledge and insight. And each time they are in your presence, they remember their earlier lives. Every opportunity you have to listen to an elder tell a story, give counsel or reflect makes you wiser in ways you could not have possibly counted on or imagined.
Go to the elders with a pure heart, without notions of obligation. Observe their ways and hear what they have to say. As you are listening and watching, learn the lessons they have to teach. Love them. Honor them. Revere them. It is through the elders that you will gain knowledge of your past, gain insight into your future and the wisdom to appreciate your present for all it is worth.