Respect your elders.
This concept comes up in many different cultures. Young people hear the words every day, whether it be from their coaches or teachers or parents. If you’re anything like me, you may have rebelled against this idea as a kid. I took the term “respect your elders” to mean that I was lesser than. The notion that kids and adults were not equal infuriated me, to the point that I refused to order off the children’s menu at restaurants. The presence of a “kids’ table” at Thanksgiving seemed absurd; why couldn’t we all dine with one another? I was a civil human being, and had very intelligent thoughts regarding the latest episode of “Rugrats.”
True, children have their own unique perspective and should be treated with respect. After all, they’re still learning essential communication, and it can be quite frustrating to not have your point taken seriously. It’s hard to be a kid. But it’s also hard to be an adult. Heck, it’s hard to be a human, and by developing a mutual empathy for all ages, we’re able to nurture a level of peace that seems to have escaped society. Respect begets respect, and by respecting our elders we help breed a more conscientious attitude among the ages.
Respect doesn’t have to mean”obey” or “believe.” You can respect your elders as human beings, and accept that in their time on earth, they’ve had their own set of unique experiences. While you may not turn to your elders for information on everything, they are often able to provide an alternative perspective. This illustrates another benefit of respect: it allows us to open our minds and consider new viewpoints. Even if their attitudes don’t mesh with your own belief system, it doesn’t hurt to hear what your elders have to say.
Often times our elders are the ones who most influence our growth. I think of my high school history teacher, my parents, and my girl scout leader. These were the people who willingly dedicated their time and efforts to make my life a more positive experience. I realize I am lucky; not everyone has positive relationships with the adults in their lives. But most of us have at least one special person who helped serve as a mentor, guide, or metaphorical fairy godmother.
Take this lesson from your inner child: Remember the “respect your elders” mantra, and give it some consideration. Who are the elders in your life who have helped you become the best version of yourself? What can you do to thank them? Below are some suggestions to get you started.
Listen. Listening may seem like an obvious activity, but too often we value our own thoughts over those of another. Open your eyes and ears to what others have to say, and give them time to convey their ideas.
Ask for Advice. When you’re deep in the rut of a life problem, perspective might help pull you out. While you might hesitate asking a parent or grandparent for advice, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. The simple act of asking shows that you value their opinion.
Visit Them. We all have busy schedules, which makes it all the more meaningful to take time out of your schedule to visit an elder. This is especially valuable if an elder lives alone, or in a retirement community. Your visit likely brings a burst of fresh energy.
Ask About Their Lives. One of the biggest turning points in my life was when I realized that, yes, my parents were human. They had their own experiences that shaped them to be the people who raised me. They were once teenagers, and once rolled their eyes at my grandparents the same way I rolled my eyes at them. Asking those older than us about their lives illustrates interest, which is its own form of respect.
Express your appreciation. When I was a nanny, some of my favorite words were “thank you.” I was often up to my elbows in laundry, watching the macaroni boil while simultaneously giving a practice spelling test. Whenever the kids took the time to thank me, I almost sobbed with gratitude. Too often the positive efforts of our elders go unnoticed. Vocalizing your appreciation is one of the simplest ways to give respect.
Regardless of age, a little bit of empathy can go a long way. Reach out, respect, and repeat.
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet at amandakohr.com and through Instagram.