by: Clayton King, Author + Evangelist
Full disclosure; I love old people.
I had the great privilege to grow up in a small community that was full of senior citizens. I had old aunts and uncles, three old grandparents, and a church full of old people that were a constant presence in my life. My parents spent time with old people. Our family went to visit them. They came to visit us. I sat on the porch or in their living rooms and listened to them talk and tell stories. I remember their homes, the smell of Vick's VapoRub and onions, their large print Bibles that sat by their chairs, and Wheel of Fortune playing in the background.
Now, almost all of the old people I knew and loved growing up are gone. My grandparents died 15 years ago. My parents passed away in 2010 and 2012. I have two uncles left, one in his 80s and the other in his late 70s. And I have the memories and the lessons that I learned along the way.
It seems as if our culture is obsessed with all things young. And that makes sense, right? Who among us would miss the opportunity to go back and have the energy we had when we were teenagers? It would be nice to have a young body again, one that did not ache early in the morning when you wake up or crack and pop every time you walk up a flight of stairs. For most in our nation, younger is better.
Yet there is a real sense in which the older things we often ignore or discard are actually better. The wisdom, the life experience, the patience and tender understanding of our older friends and family members are simply priceless. A conversation with a Korean War vet is infinitely more valuable than a 140 character quote on Twitter.
In my office where I am writing this blog there are two items of significance sitting on my bookshelves. One is an American flag. It was given to my mother at her father's funeral. He was a veteran of World War II and served in the South Pacific. As a member of "The Greatest Generation," he helped save our planet from catastrophe. His stories would hold me spellbound for hours as a kid. What I would not give to sit and talk to him one more time.
And then I have a glass Coke bottle. Essentially worthless from a monetary perspective, it adorns a place of honor in my office because of who drank from it. I spent an afternoon with Billy Graham in his home several years ago. I asked him countless questions and listened to him share wisdom and stories from his life and ministry. He talked about the Queen of England, 12 US Presidents he had known, and his conversation with Winston Churchill. We had refreshments while we were there and he drank a Coke from the bottle. I asked permission and took that bottle home with me. It means more than almost any physical object I own...because of the story and the man behind it.
Take time to talk to...and listen to...the old people you have access to. We need them in our lives. We need them in our nation. When they are gone, we will only have memories and pictures, so cherish them while you still have them.