As parents we try to raise our children to be kind and honest and to respect themselves and others. One way John and I did this was by giving our children the gift of elderly people in their lives.
Now before you start thinking I’m being insensitive or disrespectful, let me explain. We were always conscious of making sure our children knew the older people in their lives—not just by looking at them from across the room or grinning and bearing up under a few cheek-pinching extended family members. No, we really encouraged them to view the older people we knew as friends.Over the years I’ve been blessed to receive a number of compliments from others as well as affirmations from our kids that we’d been successful in this endeavor, but one particular incident is especially dear to my heart…
Emma was three years old and excited to be scribbling her name on the back of her “Little Mermaid” valentine cards just like her siblings were. On the Saturday before Valentine’s Day that year, they were filling out cards to take to their friends at church the following day. Emma was telling me who she wanted to make cards for and at the top of her list was Marge. Marge was a sweet little lady who was in her eighties. She barely spoke above a whisper and was really a bit on the shy side, but she loved Emma and Emma wanted to make sure Marge knew the feeling was mutual by giving her the brightest, most sparkling card in the box.
I can still see Emma running to Marge to hand her the card and the hugs and smiles that followed after she opened it. In spite of an eighty year span in their ages, these two were truly friends.
Giving your children the gift of older people in their lives should be a priority to you. In doing so your children are exposed to the wisdom of those who’ve lived longer. They enjoy the fact that older people often have time and patience to be with children. Children are seen as a welcome breath of fresh air and energy by many older people. Your children learn endurance, integrity, the value of commitment and responsibility from the older people in their lives as well as a number of other character traits we should possess. And it all happens just because two separate and very different generations walk the common ground called friendship.I know they can learn these things from you, too. And they should. But there’s just something about different generations spending time together—forming an actual relationship—that plants these life-lessons deeper within our hearts and minds.