I’m a youth ministry person through and through. I have absolutely loved getting to walk with several youth as they have wrestled through what it means to follow Jesus and know who He has made them to be. Recently though, I have found myself drawn to a very different crowd — senior citizens.
For the past few years, I have made friends with quite a few people well past retirement age. I think it started when I worked at a cafe and my regulars in the mornings were all people I could consider my grandparents — they always had quirky stories to share, knew how to make me laugh, distracted me from work and never quite knew when to stop talking. I embraced this and I felt like they made me a more patient, kind, and loving person.
My friend’s caption continued to share that a, “90 year old saint let my girl know she matters!”
A year ago, I again found myself drawn to older people who were volunteering at a YWAM base for the summer. Any time I would eat a meal in the cafeteria, I would insist on sitting with my wise old friends. I could not quite figure out what it was I loved about them so much until I came across a post on Instagram. The post was talking about how seniors had taken time to invest in and listen to my friend’s 11-year-old daughter. Her daughter had shared that the older women she was surrounded by made her feel special and, “not just any kind of special, like really special.” My friend’s caption continued to share that a, “90 year old saint let my girl know she matters!” As I read that line, it suddenly struck me why I love spending time with people often close to three times my age — they have a knack for making me feel like I matter. How do they do that? I believe, quite simply, it is conversation.
Never once while talking to someone over the age of 45 have I found the conversation in a lull that was desperately needing a change in topic. Lately, I have recognized how people around my age struggle to make conversation (and it’s not just a matter of the room being full of introverts who need a quiet space to think). I have noticed that I will introduce a topic, share a story or ask a question and nobody will respond in length or in detail.
…they were raised to make conversation.
The reason seniors do not function this way is because they were raised to make conversation. They did not get one way validation from Instagram. They did not shoot a text message and have to wait for a response. And they were not entertained by never-ending hours of Netflix. They did life with other people because that is what life was. The central way of being social was to (in fact) socialize, face to face, in real life, being physically present with one another.
What if we were more curious what someone might say in person, rather than what someone has posted on Social Media?
What if our lives were more about these kinds of interactions? What if we were more curious what someone might say in person, rather than what someone has posted on Social Media? What if I shared my photos with people I knew cared about me, rather than throwing them out to the world hoping someone might like the filter I chose? What if I sought to know others more than I look for my own recognition?
I think if I worked harder to know others then, eventually, the desire to be known in return would surface and we could get back to the golden days all of my senior friends still seem to live in. The days of constant conversation when there was no fear that silence would happen because someone always knew how to keep the crowd engaged. If I want those days back, I need to be the catalyst.
So, I am going to keep acting like a grandma in hopes that my young friends will see one of the most valuable things senior citizens have to offer.
Hopefully we will all look up from our smartphones and be the ones to initiate real life relationship with the people around us. Because they matter!
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