Growing up I was always told to respect my elders. I have a deeper understanding of those now that some people consider me an elder. Elders, in many cultures, are considered the libraries of knowledge and life experience. They possess essential resources for the survival of the family, and in some cultures for the entire village. They help to anchor the family in the traditions of their family and culture. The elders are in most cultures the most revered because they are the ones who preserve and nurture. It is, in any cultures, a role which one yearns to achieve. While we do not always respect our elders in our culture, perhaps this is something we can learn from cultures around the world who have a different understanding of respecting one’s elders
In African cultures, for example, the elder is as important to the community as the newborn. They are both viewed as being equal in proximity to the world of the ancestors. One has just come and one is preparing to ascend and return. They compliment and honor each other. The youth are viewed as a physical stability and strength drawn from the ancestors. They are both respected because they know in their own ways they are connected through their recognition of worlds other than our own.
Perhaps it is time, in our culture, to treat the most vulnerable of our society with respect. To celebrate the youth and the gifts they bring us from our ancestors and our elders for the collective wisdom they hold and the legacies they are preparing to leave us with. How many fewer cases of child and elder abuse would we see in our country if we had reverence for the young and the old?
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