“Do not cast me away when I’m old…do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Psalm 71:9. The psalmist goes on to say in verse 17 and 18, “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”
There is so much wisdom garnered in the history of our elder generation. So many times, we get busy and forget the generation before us who fought for what we have today, who sacrificed so much so we could have better than they had, and those who prayed for us and every generation yet to come that we would know and depend on the God of all creation, the God they grew to depend on and trust. We’ve lost something along the way when we discard their knowledge and understanding of their time and the time gone by. As I get older, I find myself remembering the “good old days” more and more. I have a deep regard and respect for our older generation.
I grew up going to family reunions each year on each side of the family. Not just our immediate families, but our grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles and even those aunts and uncles we knew nothing about, except that we knew they were “kin.” I remember sitting on the front porch with my grandparents, my dad’s parents, hulling peas or cutting corn off the cob while listening to their endless supply of stories growing up on the farm and how good “you kids” have it today, compared to their day.
I remember the times when social etiquette was a force to be reckoned with, in that there were some things you simply did not about. For example, I was about 8 or 9 and we went to visit my uncle Sam. He was my grandmother’s brother. He and his wife owned several acres down the road from my grandmother and from time to time when we visited my grandmother during the summer, we were able to go visit them. He had a lot of cattle and I asked him one time how many “cows” he had. He laughed and said, “Oh, I got about ten.” Aunt Myrtle (his wife) looked at him with that “Oh, you do not” look. But, the rule was, it was rude to ask such a seemingly innocent question. It was the same as asking, “How much money do you have in your bank account.” Life was simpler then.
As I grew, I learned to show great respect for those in authority over me. In fact, if an adult asked me to do something, it was the same as if my own parents asked me to do something. It was simply rude and disrespectful to disregard the position of authority of the elderly. From as young as I can remember, we were very family oriented and were around people who were older and we were expected to treat them as if they were royalty.
Looking back, I guess I was an odd duck. While most teenagers were riding around town on a Friday night or going to the movies or hanging out with their friends on a Saturday night, I was hanging out with my piano, or going to area churches who would gather for their Saturday nite singing. There was an elderly gentleman who could still sing the deepest bass notes I had ever heard. The song director and those of us who wanted to go sing, would pick up him from the nursing home and take him to sing on Saturday night and then take him back to the nursing home when we finished. Oh, how it made him smile and laugh. We would also go to back to the nursing home on a Sunday afternoon about once a month so all the residents who wanted to participate could enjoy some good old fashioned gospel singing as well. Those were the days!
While I was working at the full-service station in my hometown, an elderly black woman came in to have her car serviced. She was a regular customer and we had on many occasions struck up a conversation. That day, while she was waiting on her car to be finished, she looked at me and said, “Do you know how old I am?” I answered “No.” She said, “Take a guess.” I guessed she was in her 60s since she said she was retired. She laughed and said, “You’re way off. I’m 75.” I was in shock. She did not have one gray hair on her head. I asked her how she was able to stay so young looking. She answered, “I don’t worry. I give it to the Lord. I can’t do anything about most things anyway. Worry just makes you old.” She added, “I also play basketball with my grand kids and I don’t eat junk. That helps me stay active.” I was speechless.
Even now, my mother can remember details of life from long ago. In many ways, life was more difficult then, but people learned how to make it through the tough times and for the most part, without falling apart. It amazes me. Yes, there is so much wisdom in our elder saints, if we would just slow down and take the time listen and consider what they have to say. There was so much structure in their beliefs. Looking back, even though the huge salaries were not as prevalent then as they are today, this generation had so much wealth in their hearts and souls for what was most important. I’ve never forgotten what that elderly woman said to me, “I don’t worry. I give it to the Lord.” It reminds me of Matthew 6:25-34, in verse 27, can worrying even add a single hour to your life? I think she got it figured out.
Just as God tells our youth in 1 Timothy 4:12 not to let anyone despise their youth, the same is true for our elder saints, as it says in Luke 1:50 his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. Let us not overlook the wisdom available to us through those who have lived a little longer than we have. Perhaps, there is still room for all of us to learn and grow. Don’t worry. Give it to the Lord.