What She Said! Part 2: The Gift of Age
by Sherry Bitler, Guest Writer
Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord. -Leviticus 19:32
As you evaluate the values you want your child to have as an adult, is being respectful and showing mercy to those who are elderly on your list? Do they see you value the skills of older people? Much of life is reactive, but why not be proactive? Be intentional about teaching this character trait.
Our current culture as a whole does not really revere older people. Look around at the products screaming for us to prevent aging, prolong youth, even ‘cut’ out the old and put in the new. Cosmetic surgery establishments are everywhere. The reality, however, is that we will all grow old.
Think about yourself growing older. How do you want your children to see you? How much influence will you have over their ideas? How much influence will the culture have? As young moms, you have the opportunity to change the hearts and minds of future generations, but it will take a plan.
Do you value the input of older women, or do you only listen in-part concluding that their thoughts aren’t relative today – their ideas are old-fashioned? The Bible tells us in Psalm 92 that the righteous will still bear fruit in old age. Does this mean that we should look for what older people can teach us about God?
Somehow I have become an older woman! I have to admit that I am still trying to process this part of my story. I want to serve the Lord but I am not sure exactly what that should look like. Our culture is changing so very rapidly. My soul seems to feel that “being available” is my calling, while my first thoughts are to offer myself to teach or train, I feel more successful when I answer questions asked of me rather than share my ideas. I try to model my solutions to circumstances clearly so younger families have an example to consider.
On a more personal note, adult children need to stop and please consider your parents and extended family as they age. It can be very easy to only see them as they were, in their middle age, and miss that they have stepped over into being “aged”. It is easy to expect them to do what they have always done, be there, taking care, sharing in solving problems, etc. Without realizing it, you may be missing that they need you to help them now. Ask the Lord to keep your eyes open to the changes older people may be experiencing.
Older people still want to be useful and serve but their physical skills, energy, and cognitive abilities may be weakening. Ask an older woman or couple to pray for you and your family. Share your needs with them and ask about their needs. Help your child (and you) see that this person has loved God for a very long time. Help your child see that this person is special because they are willing to pray for you and because they have allowed God to teach them many lessons over the years.
Teach your child by example to be excited to check in with this older person on a regular basis, making eye contact, and answering simple questions. Teach your children to give them hugs or shake their hands, and, of course, there is always “give me 5”. Have your children draw pictures or write notes or make cards for this friend. Let them know you are praying for them. Help your child understand older people don’t rush but take their time to enjoy a brief conversation. Most older people love to hear the details of your day, or how things are going at school, or what after school activities you are active in.
Have conversations with your children talking positively about growing old. As you teach manners, help children understand and exhibit ways to show respect…holding the door for older people, letting older people have their seat if there are no others. I have seen an older person politely allowing a mom with a young child to take a seat. Consider the circumstance – valid as the gesture may be, will declining, and allowing the older person the seat be a start at modeling for your child that age should be revered? Others might witness your actions and begin to think about respect as well. If you really need to be seated rather than the older person you can point out to your child how very kind and helpful the older person was to you.
When you pray with your child, pray for the older people you know. Talk about being old as a special time of life. If your actions are full of respect and concern for older people your child will model this behavior too. Plan for these moments in the life of your child. You will be developing a lifelong friendship that gives children strength of character and wisdom – and you will also be a beneficiary one day.
Lord, please help me even in the midst of all my distractions to be intentional about modeling for my children respect in word and in deed for the older people in our lives. Help me to see my parents and older family members realistically. Show me ways in which they may need my help. Please help me to be grateful for the older people who take time to interact with me and my family and to pray for us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sherry Bitler is the founder of a local traditional Christian School, a home school cooperative school, and a summer program for children at a popular Christian Conference Center. She is a spiritual mother to hundreds of young women. Challenged by her daughter-in-law, she began writing a blog, The Grateful Grammie. She loves time with her husband of 47 years, their four children, their spouses, and twelve grandchildren. Sherry shares more about living with Multiple Sclerosis in the MARKINC.org interview “When MS is Your Constant Companion.”
For more from Daily Treasure please visit MARKINC.ORG.