I experienced a flashback yesterday evening. Weird, but there it is. It happened. It set in train a period of thought. When we were out and about a few years ago, I was very impressed with Youth. Youth kindly opened doors, stepped aside, apologised when they didn’t need to but thought they may have been an obstacle. Why? Because I was in a wheelchair and, as I could more easily then, propelling myself. During these numerous demonstrations of courtesy and compassion, I witnessed a pair of elderly women (I refuse to say ‘ladies’) push past two Youths, who were making way for me. These women thrust between the Youths and one’s hefty bag banged heavily into my wheelchair (setting off a burst of pain – no apology was forthcoming!). As they passed, I heard one say to the other: “These kids have got no respect for their elders!” and her companion agreed, so that they maintained their complaining conversation until they were out of earshot. The two Youths were blushing furiously but said not one word. I thanked them very sincerely.
I have grown up with people banging on about the need to “respect your elders”. In childhood, and into early adulthood, I even accepted the concept without thought. Now, I have to say that it is wrong. Utterly wrong! Age doesn’t earn any right to be respected – deeds and behaviour do! I honestly believe this. If you want respect, behave accordingly. Be a role model. Be courteous and considerate. Be compassionate and understanding. Demonstrate that you haven’t wasted decades of Life, learning nothing about how to behave with other people. Most importantly of all, don’t ask for respect while you exhibit prejudice! Too often, people who should know better make assumptions about others. Youth is careless and troublesome. Kids are noisy and far too prone to dashing about. Anybody younger is rude and a nuisance that we have no choice but to suffer. Really? Those three concepts are so faulty, they barely need counterarguments! Youth reacts instantly to the attitudes and behaviour encountered. If you’re rude or suspicious of Youth – expect it to be returned – in spades! Kids are just that! Below a certain age they race about, they forget ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, every mission is urgent. Yet you’ll find they can be polite, caring and, above all, loving. But there world is moving so very fast – they have to run at full speed to keep up! As for the more generalised third statement, that’s patently untrue. People are people. You’ll encounter good and bad, friendly and unfriendly – but in no greater diversity than in your own age group!
Am I feeling cruel for targeting the elderly? No. Why? Because I don’t believe that respect is a right for anybody! Wealth, power, celebrity or any other false ‘special’ status – none of these deserve any more respect than the guy who sleeps in a cardboard box in a public park and talks to himself and his invisible friends. Many of those who demand or expect respect will walk by a hurt woman, or fail to help somebody being attacked, but the man in the box may well come to the rescue! There’s no telling who will demonstrate true Worthiness!
You want respect? Be respectful! You want courtesy? Be courteous. Stop looking at people as items in a group – they are individuals and cannot be catalogued by age, gender, Race, or any other false label.