Long ago and far away when dinosaurs roamed the world and I was a wee young lad — well, at least a young lad — I was often not very fond, detested at times even, hearing much in the way of conversation, more specifically advice, from the older generation.
The reason or reasons were many but the most obvious was, “I’m young and hip, part of the new and now generation and what could those old fogeys possibly tell me about the world and the shape of things?”
“Plenty” would be today’s answer to that question.
Let me hasten to say here that I did not ignore all counsel in those days. Actually, I took a great deal of it to heart, although some of the lessons and instructions had to be verified the hard way.
For instance, when my mama said not to touch her spray and steam iron I should have heeded her. And the day one of my dad’s friends told me, while we were standing in his small engine repair shop, not to touch the spark plug of an idling lawn mower with the screw driver I had just picked up, I should have listened.
The larger issues of life, however, weren’t necessarily wrapped up in those minor events, although I have come to learn the principles there apply to larger considerations. And that principle is this: experience is a good teacher and if wisdom comes along with that experience, it’s a wise boy who pays attention to the experience and wisdom of his elders.
All throughout the Good Book, especially in Proverbs, are jewels of wisdom and lately I have begun to note that many of them have a home in the minds and hearts of those senior adults. Snow white hair on its own does not necessarily a wise person make but it can be a sign that you’re in the presence of one.
As I think about that, I think of a little lady I knew almost 60 years ago. Mrs. Mary Shotts was the guidance counselor at Pittsboro High School as I was coming through, maybe the first ever, at least officially in title. She was a kind and gentle lady and I became very fond of her except when she wouldn’t let me sign up for a class in advanced PE my senior year in high school. Her reasoning was that a class period devoted to picking up rocks on the football field or cleaning trash from under the bleachers would not be as beneficial in the long run as would a class in, say, algebra-trigonometry.
Of course, the fact I barely passed algebra/trig doesn’t matter anymore. At least she saved me from picking up rocks, a task I still don’t like.
Mrs. Shotts had that silver and snow-white hair and years of experience and wisdom. Nowadays I also think not only of her but also of Dr. Chevis Horne, my professor of preaching at seminary. A wise elder statesman, he served one church his entire professional life, first being its associate pastor. Then after a stint as a field chaplain in Sicily during World War II, he came back to that parish as its senior pastor and served 30 years before retiring and turning to teaching.
Since those days, it’s been my desire to emulate those folks, to become them. And I know I’m on the way because my hair and beard are starting to turn gray and because the youth of today say “sir” to me or offer the senior adult discount without asking for proof.
That other part — the wisdom part — however, I’m not so sure of and as I meander through my biblical “three score and ten,” I can only hope some of the other will come along.
Maybe it will ...
Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.
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