The answer to this question is simple; we feel they’re too young to know any better or too old to be relevant.
Like most of you, I’ve worked with or have known some pretty bright people. They can analyze, revise, sell, market, teach, calculate, propose, create, design, and manufacture with the best minds out there.
But they’re not as smart as a five-year old, and they don’t have near the common sense or understanding of an eighty year old.
And yet we ignore them both. We push one age group aside because they can’t possibly teach us anything at their young age and the other aside because the general feeling is they’ve used up their usefulness to society and are now nothing more than a financial drain or burden.
How sad is that?
A five-year old’s intuition is never even considered, and yet they can tell us things about people we never see. Each day they teach us the importance of innocence, the ability to learn, explore and communicate in ways we don’t understand or pay attention to closely enough. A five-year old child lives in the moment and understands how important that moment is to the rest of his or her life.
The first post I ever wrote on this blog was about a morning I spent playing soccer with my grandson. We were leaving the field and I was walking ahead of him. I turned and asked him why he was dragging behind. He told me he enjoyed taking his time because if he saw something he liked, he wanted to be able look at it again. He said that’s why he doesn’t mind sitting in traffic; he gets to look at things a second time.
The difference between looking and seeing.
We love our children and we do all that we can for them. We try to teach them how to behave, the difference between right and wrong, encourage them and provide for them. But do we ever really listen closely enough to learn and modify our own lives?
When I was a young teenager, I worked in the kitchen of a nursing home. One of my jobs was to bring the patients their meals. I remember how much they enjoyed that little visit. I would always speak with them when I put down their trays and after I was done I would go back and talk with some of them. Actually, it was more listening than talking. But I learned more about life in a ten minute conversation than anyone could ever teach me. Our elders have been there….and back. They have experienced life in ways we’ve yet to know. They understand and live mortality every day, in ways we only talk about as a “one day” conversation. They break down problems using a common sense approach, understanding what really matters in the time each of us have left. And yet, we think nothing of dismissing them. Our arrogance of how much we think we know is such that we can’t conceive of someone who moves or speaks slowly, knowing more than us.
How sad is that?
The smartest people I ever met are shorter than me, older than me, faster than me, slower than me, struggle with words, need help to get through the day and will spend as much time with you as you are willing to give in return.
You should really get to know them, too. And listen closely. You might learn something you never knew.