Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Young Men & Gray Heads
We live in a area surrounded (albeit sparsely) by neighbors. Many are elderly, without family close-by and often in need of a bit of help. One dear little old lady is a phenomenal gardener with a weathered face and leather tough hands. As active and strong as she is, she is frustratingly incapable of doing simple things like tuning up her lawn mower every spring or repairing her rototiller. Unloading a pickup full of saw chips, which in her younger years would have only constituted a couple of hours work is now an insurmountable task. Our neighbor, whose knowledge in all things growing is unparalleled, has lived to see her body betray her while her mind remains yet keen. She is at a point in her life when the wisdom of her years yearns to be complimented with the strength of youth.
Our children are young. They are strong and capable. Their strength and energy require an outlet. We could direct them to a video game or an amusement park. We could encourage them to spend their youth pursuing self-fulfillment and taking every advantage of their "carefree" years. We think there is a better way.
Children and young adults have so much to learn about life. They haven't lived long enough to have gained wisdom and insight - they need older, wiser people for that. They long to be useful - to be competent and needed. And they don't get that from video games, television or amusement parks. They don't learn to be self-sacrificing, productive members of society by ordering their lives to serve themselves.
As the weather turns warm, our phone rings off the hook. "May I speak to Master Hand Grenade?", "Is Miss Serenity available?", "I have a job that I think Princess Dragon Snack would be perfect for...". - our neighbors, calling on the strength of our children. It is the best of both worlds, our children lend their youth and strength to our neighbors in exchange for a little bit of their wisdom. It is the perfect symbiotic relationship - the old and the young, working shoulder to shoulder, head to head.
"Mrs. Brown" (our dear little old lady neighbor) has been mowing her lawn, thanks to Master Hand Grenade's thorough mechanic work, and the carburetor will soon be replaced on her rototiller, allowing her to begin spring garden work. The saw chips have been carefully spread throughout her garden beds (thank you Miss Serenity) and her raspberry patch has been well-weeded.
It is not only "Mrs. Brown" who reaps the benefit of working with our children - it is our children who reap the benefit of working with "Mrs. Brown". Miss Serenity has had the opportunity to learn about gardening from one of the best gardeners in our area. Master Hand Grenade has learned much about small engine mechanics as he has striven to keep "Mrs. Brown's" equipment in good running order. They have learned that serving others is always more satisfying than serving themselves. They have acquired skills and discipline that will serve them throughout their entire lives.
Youth is not a time to obsessively cater to self-gratification. Youth is the time to lay the foundation for life. And the foundation that is built in youth is the foundation that forms our families and our nation. Build well.